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Humuhumunukunukuapua'a Facts: Hawaii's State Fish (with Pictures)


The humuhumunukunukuapua'a is Hawaii's state fish and is well-known for its long name. Although it may look intimidating, one can pronounce it correctly by sounding it out phonetically like so:


For short, the locals call this fish "humuhumu," which makes it much easier to talk about.

This fish is also known as the reef triggerfish and gets its Hawaiian name for the shape of its snout and the sound it makes. Humuhumunukunukuapua'a means "the fish that snorts like a pig" because it makes a grunting sound with its strangely-shaped nose.

The scientific term for this fish is Rhinecanthus rectangulus as it is one one of many triggerfish that are indigenous to the South Pacific Ocean.


Why does the humuhumunukunukuapuaa grunt?

The humuhumu is known to grunt like a pig (which is where it gets its name). The grunt is made possible by the strange shape of the snout and the closeness of the fish's teeth. The mouth of the humuhumu is so wide, it looks like the fish has a mouth full of marshmallows. In fact, the space in its mouth is full of air, which it uses to push jet streams out of to sort through sand as well as to make the grunting sound that is referred to in its name.

Scientists theorize that the fish grunts to warn other triggerfish about imminent danger or to call them over to join in a feast. Although the humuhumu has a long name, it is actually a very small fish that usually only grows to 8 inches at the largest.

Why is the Humuhumu Hawaii's State Fish?

Hawaii chose to claim the humuhumunukunukuapua'a as its state fish in 1985 because of the vast population of humuhumu in Hawaii. In 1990, the bill expired and the humuhumu was no longer considered the state fish by law and many people agreed that this fish, although very common in Hawaii's waters, should not be the state fish. This was because the humuhumu is not indigenous to Hawaii like many other fish off Hawaii's coasts.

The humuhumu has never been a source of food or nourishment for the people of Hawaii. In fact, Ancient Hawaiians used the fish to toss on the fire as you would lighter fluid. While some believe this fish is not very representative of Hawaii's culture, others disagree. They argue that this was a reason make it the state fish again, because it is not a common fish to catch for sport or food. If a commonly sought-after fish (like the opakapaka, mahimahi, or ono) was the state fish, environmentalists would attempt to protect the fish, causing various disturbances to both the peace and also to the economy.

In 2006, Governor Oshiro reinstated the humuhumu as Hawaii's state fish and it remains so today.

Characteristics of the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a

Humuhumus are very small fish with special abilities.

Defensive Attributes

For protection, the reef triggerfish has rough scales along its body that comes in handy when the fish wants to hide within the rocks. The tough structure of its body as well as its size and shape allows the humuhumu to swim into small crevasses in the rocks to hide from predators.

Another defense technique that the humuhumu uses is its ability to change the pigment of its scales. The humuhumu, much like other triggerfish, have camouflage abilities that help them to blend into their surroundings, therefore disguising themselves from predators.

Eating Habits

The humuhumu sifts through its food by scooping up a mouthful of sand and spitting the inedible and undesirable parts back onto the ocean floor. They have the ability to blow jet streams out of their mouths, which they use to sift through the sand quickly to avoid being eaten while hunting for their own food.

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anonymous on September 17, 2020:

great job! really helpful!!!!!! thank u!!!!!

anonymous on September 16, 2020:

very very helpful for MY home school research project! thanks a billion million!!!!

frank on September 16, 2020:

so helpful

~long~ on March 26, 2020:

This one website was very, very helpful for a middle school research project. Thank you!

...j... on January 20, 2020:

Who is Governor Oshiro? In 2006, the governor was Linda Lingle

lover_girl on December 11, 2019:

So helpful with my project

blue_wolf_5027 on April 01, 2019:

WOW! Very helpful for my speech! Thanks a lot!

Bella on March 16, 2018:

Even though it has a long name,it lives in hawk so it must be dazzling!

Pat on February 13, 2018:

Very random fact but the teeth of this fish are blue.

Phoebe Chen on April 20, 2017:

This is the famous book ever!Also Brittany Kennedy humu humu can squirt out strong water,and it hide in small spaces then to come out.

Phoebe Chen on April 19, 2017:

Humuhumu can squirt out strong water if you scared them.also it hides in holes if they are scared and then they come out.

colin on March 20, 2017:

cool they also eat coral

derp on December 11, 2016:

This is a really nice article! It is nice put together and this is very helpful for my latest biology project!

Oliver on January 26, 2016:

Crazy name

Isabelle on May 04, 2015:

Wow I had always herd my best friend talk about it and when I went to Hawaii I loved it and I got to learn how to say it and learn about and it was a great experience.

Jake on May 20, 2014:

Cool !

maddie muller on April 03, 2014:

this fish is about as good as its state

Gabby Veirnes on January 30, 2014:

wow Beautiful

:) ;)

Cayla Domnick on December 17, 2013:

I like how there dressed and what there talking about

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on July 14, 2012:

Actually it isn't, blissful, only because it's in Hawaiian (not English). Thanks for reading! :)

BlissfulWriter on July 14, 2012:

Is that fish name considered the longest word in English?

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on June 17, 2012:

ktrapp, I am so glad that my break down of the name helped you! I love this fish as it is so beautiful. Thanks again!

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on June 17, 2012:

What a really interesting looking fish and story of why people don't think it should be the state fish. My daughter's chemistry teacher was from Hawaii and at parent-night he told us about this fish. After hearing him say it, I never thought I would be able to, but your pronunciation breakdown works. Thanks.

MickiS from San Francisco on May 30, 2012:

Great Hub! I saw the fish and learned to properly pronounce it on my first to Maui ages ago. It's been a favorite ever since. Voted up!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on May 29, 2012:

A great hub! I used to have one of these when I had a saltwater aquarium. They do grunt and get very excited at meal times. They are also fairly docile in a tank setting but do eat coral! voted up and then some.

Melissa A Smith from New York on May 29, 2012:

Looks a lot like a picasso trigger fish.

Joseph Davis from Florida on May 29, 2012:

Interesting hub. I've been to Hawaii and seen the fish in person, so how they decide to make this fish their state fish I have no idea... I wouldn't be able to choose. So many beautiful fish there!

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