Trumpets of the Sea


A relative of the seahorse, trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus) are named for their long, thin bodies with upturned mouths. While common in waters around the Big Island, these masters of disguise can be hard to spot. Varying in colors from reddish-brown to greenish-yellow, they can easily and quickly change colors to blend with the surrounding marine environment. Heightening the challenge, these crafty fish often swim vertically with snouts facing down to confuse both snorkelers and possible predators by blending with coral and sea rods. It’s a tactic that also helps in ambushing their prey (usually smaller fish and shrimp), as they are able to camouflage themselves or lie motionless like a floating stick, waiting for just the right moment to strike. While these color-changing and vertical swimming antics seem plausible for hunting and protection, they also are an important part of the fish’s elaborate method of courtship. Trumpetfish have a ritual or “dance” to attract their partners, and like the seahorse, the female trumpetfish will transfer all of her eggs to the male who fertilizes and carries the eggs in a pouch until they are born. Trumpetfish are harmless to humans and you may be lucky enough to spot one while snorkeling. But as with all marine life, please respect the animal and their environment. 

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