Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – The Story Behind Hawaii State Fish
Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa. This is the short, memorable, and easily pronounced name of the state fish of Hawaii. As the only U.S. state not connected to North America, it is not surprising that Hawaii, an island chain rich in seaside culture and customs, has a state fish. Explore the story behind the humuhumu in greater detail.
Why the Hawaii’s State Fish is as Unique as Its Name
Did you know that each state in the United States has a designated state fish? These fish are as common as Indiana’s largemouth bass and as rare as Hawaii’s state fish, the reef triggerfish (humuhumunukunukuapuaa). It is one of the most well-known Hawaiian reef fish due to its distinctive color patterns, fin arrangement, and angular body shape.
In 1984, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa was designated as the official state fish of Hawaii. The absence of a reelection campaign in 2006 led to the humuhumunukunukupuaa’s permanent election as Hawaii’s official state fish.
Many native Hawaiians make light of the fact that the fish’s name is longer than its actual length. The name “humuhumunukunukuapuaa” translates roughly to “triggerfish with a pig’s snout.”
What Is Hawaii’s State Fish? Humuhumunukunukuapua’a
The name Humuhumunukunukupuaa (Reef Triggerfish) may appear intimidating, but it is actually quite simple. Regardless, locals frequently save breath by shortening the phrase to humuhumu. Like all Hawaiian names, the state fish’s moniker is steeped in meaning and history. The initial component, “humuhumu,” is the Hawaiian term for all triggerfish species. The final portion of the name, “nukunukupuaa,” translates to “pig-like snout.” There is a similarity between the unique grunting sound made by live fish when threatened and the recognizable sounds made by pigs, despite the oddness of this comparison.
The 21-letter name of Hawaii’s state fish is certainly difficult to pronounce. This is a humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish. Here are a few fascinating facts about the humuhumunukunukuapuaa:
- This lengthy Hawaiian fish’s name is “who moo who moo new coo new coo ah poo ah ah.”
- The name translates to “trigger fish with a pig-like snout.”
- It was selected as the state fish of Hawaii in 1984 by public vote. Students played a crucial role in promoting the humuhumunukunukuapuaa. When the humuhumunukunukuapuaa was chosen as the state fish for the first time, lawmakers made this designation official for only five years. Consequently, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa lost its status as the state fish for more than a decade, but in 2006, it regained its “oFISHal” status.
- It is indigenous to the waters surrounding the islands of the central and southern Pacific.
- It is not a fish commonly consumed by humans.
Additionally, the humuhumunukunukupuaa appears in Hawaiian mythology. The fish has a close relationship with the demigod and shapeshifter Kama Puaa, who also takes the form of a man or a wild boar. According to legend, Kama Puaa was a cruel chief from the island of Oahu. One day, after deciding to visit the Big Island, he saw Pele, the goddess of lava and fire. He fell in love, which eventually led to their marriage. But Pele witnessed Kama Pua’a’s ruthlessness, and in a fit of rage, she decided she’d had enough. Pele bombarded Kama Puaa with steam and lava, but he matched her every move, resulting in an epic battle. After Pele summoned reinforcements, Kama Puaa was forced to retreat into the ocean, far from the molten lava pits. Upon entering the water, he transformed into a humuhumunukunukuapuaa and swam to safety.
A humuhumu will spend its days gliding along the ocean floor and consuming algae and sand-dwelling invertebrates. At night, it returns to its reef crevice and opens three spines to safely secure itself in place. The fish can then rest peacefully knowing that no predator can reach it. This behavior gave rise to the other common name for the humuhumu, the Wedge-tailed Triggerfish.
Hawaii is home to some of the best snorkeling spots due to the presence of vibrant reef fish, year-round warm water temperatures, and magnificent coral formations. Humuhumus prefer shallow outer reef environments, which are ideal for inexperienced snorkelers. The humuhumu is easily identifiable due to its distinct coloration and patterning.
Hanauma Bay on the southern coast of Oahu is one of the best places to observe a humuhumu in its natural habitat. The tranquil bay is a marine life conservation district and nature preserve. Besides the humuhumu, you can swim alongside dozens of other species of fish, such as the kikkapu (Threadfin Butterflyfish), manini (Convict Tang), and kihikihi (Moorish Idol).
Topic: Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – The Story Behind Hawaii’s State Fish
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