New Shoreline Hunting Behavior Recorded for Titan Triggerfish | Reef Builders

New Shoreline Hunting Behavior Recorded for Titan Triggerfish | Reef Builders

In case you needed another reason to fear the titan trigger, apparently, they can nearly beach themselves for a snack. Keep an eye on your toes next time you’re walking at the beach, as a titan trigger could be lurking nearby.

A new study published in the journal Fish Biology the case of a titan triggerfish that launched itself into the shallow shoreline in pursuit of crabs.

Titan triggers are vicious predators, with, and lightning-fast attacks. These fish can grow to around 75 centimeters (2.5 feet) in length and they’re known for their aggression towards divers who are frequently nipped by their powerful teeth as the triggerfish fiercely defend their nests.

Titan triggerfish sometimes hunt land-based prey
Matthew Tietbohl

Recently, Matthew Tietbohl, a coral reef ecologist at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Saudi Arabia, visited the Red Sea’s Mar Mar Island to survey a beach for sea turtle tracks that the triggerfish’s unusual hunting strategy was discovered.

“We turned to see this triggerfish launching itself into the shallows and stranding itself,” said Tietbohl. Stranding is a risky behavior for most fish who can’t breathe on land, so what could motivate such a bold strategy? The triggerfish was going after ghost crabs, which are common at the water’s edge as they graze on algae attached to the rocks.


Tietbohl reports that the fish would lay in wait like a stalking crocodile before launching itself out of the water to grab a crab and drag it back into the sea. It asks interesting questions about the fish’s vision as to accurately calculate where a target is from beneath a water surface that refracts light differently to air is quite a feat. [IFLS]

Figure showing the progress of the titan triggerfish’s unusual hunting strategy. Tietbohl et al 2020, Wiley

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