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


Do you think you can pronounce "humuhumunukunukuapua'a" correctly?

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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.


Do you think the humuhumunukunukuapua'a should be Hawaii's state fish?

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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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Comments 15 comments

jdavis88 profile image

jdavis88 4 years ago from Twitter @jdavis88hub

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!

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 4 years ago from New York

Looks a lot like a picasso trigger fish.

davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

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.

MickiS profile image

MickiS 4 years ago from San Francisco

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!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois

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.

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

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!

BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

Is that fish name considered the longest word in English?

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

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

Cayla Domnick 3 years ago

I like how there dressed and what there talking about

Gabby Veirnes 3 years ago

wow Beautiful

:) ;)

maddie muller 2 years ago

this fish is about as good as its state

Jake 2 years ago

Cool !

Isabelle 21 months ago

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.

Oliver 13 months ago

Crazy name

derp 2 months ago

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

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