It sounds as if this fish was named after a pistol and in a way it was. The gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) gets its common name from the fact that when it feels threatened its three dorsal spines are raised into a locked position. It pins itself in between rocks or in coral making it hard for predators to get it out. The only way to get these first spines to come back down short of breaking them off is to pull on the third spine. This cause all three to drop back into position. This is the ‘trigger’ that gives this fish its name.The gray triggerfish lives in the Atlantic Ocean and ranges eastern Canada south to Argentina. It is very common in the Gulf of Mexico.It will grow to over a foot in size and can weight over 12 pounds. Triggerfish live to be 13 years old at the oldest. Like its name says the gray triggerfish is gray but can come in a light green with a faint stripe from its mouth to tail fin.A gray triggerfish has a flat body and looks like a circle with deep slices cut out of it. It has bony scales that make it very difficult for predators to bite through.A gray triggerfish will build its nest on the bottom like a bluegill in a farm pond. As many divers will attest the trigger is very territorial and will defend its nest.When divers are around the nest of the gray triggerfish they have to watch out for their ears. A triggerfish will sneak up behind a diver and literally take a fingernail size bite out of his ear. A triggerfish has a narrow mouth with teeth like small chisels and their one quick nip is a painful one.After the eggs spawn the young triggerfish will move the surface and live in floating mats of seaweed until they reach a length of three to five inches. After that they move down to the bottom and start living on reefs.Researchers have found that this fish has an interesting way of finding and eating its food, which is primarily composed of sea urchin and sand dollars. A triggerfish will not feed on a reef but will move off it into a sandy area where it will look for sand dollars and sea urchins. The way it finds them is to turn head down and blow water at the sand under it uncovers a sand dollar. It will then flip the sand dollar until it lands bottom side up, ram it until it cracks open and eat the soft insides. It does the same thing with sea urchins.
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