Pitcairn Islands Expedition: Bizarre Fish Face Photo

Some fish, with their delicate features and calm poised attitudes, always appear ready for their close-ups. Others, like this teetering triggerfish, look like you’ve just snapped a Polaroid of them in the middle of a wild weekend in Las Vegas.

To be fair, when expedition leader Enric Sala took this photo, the fish was essentially in the middle of a bath, getting the spa treatment from a tiny cleaner fish visible just below its eyes.


Beyond the Funny Face

I saw the same behavior (and perhaps even the same fish) today as I dove with our fish experts Jenn Caselle from Marine Science Institute, UC Santa Barbara, and Alan Friedlander of the US Geological Survey and University of Hawaii as they laid out rope and tape measures and identified and counted every fish that passed by that line.

At one point Alan signaled to me and pointed into the distance. There, its colors fading into blue from from all the water between us, was a triggerfish just like this one Enric had photographed up close the day before. Parasites were being nibbled off its body by an attendant cleaner fish.

As the cleaner fish did its work, the triggerfish rolled on its side, with its large top and bottom fins waving like the graceful wings of a manta ray. Having appreciated its comical qualities the day before, it was in a way humbling now to see it in person, moving beautifully, demonstrating peaceful inter-species partnership.

As Mark Hooper, one of our ship’s engineers said to me the other night, “It’s a beautiful planet we’ve got if you just take the time to look at it.”


More From the Pitcairn Islands Expedition

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  1. […] the reef to get to 18 m (ended up at 17.4 m). Saw some cool stuff including loads of triggerfish (titan, yellow) and a Great Banded sea snake, as well as lots more Parrotfish, Butterfly fish and […]

  2. Dageda Keary
    Tianjin China
    January 16, 2015, 10:48 am

    It is quite beautiful.I love animals ,I love the fish.

  3. Kaden
    January 28, 2014, 6:27 pm

    hi dentist i need my teeth cleaned

  4. Elizabeth Llatas
    Trujillo,La Libertad -Perú ,SouthAmerica
    January 9, 2014, 2:07 pm

    I love going fishing and when I was in Rangiroa I had he chance to observe different kinds of fish but I find this one so beautiful!! GREAT picture !

  5. emmanuel james
    January 8, 2014, 10:11 am

    Sisi huku mpaka tuende ufukwe wa dar. Ndio tuone aina za samaki kama huyu.

  6. chali saidi
    January 8, 2014, 10:07 am

    Samaki mzuri kwa utalii.

  7. George
    July 15, 2013, 5:49 am

    the photo is very funny.

  8. Loreto Duffy-Mayers
    April 25, 2013, 3:51 pm

    I’m sexy and I know it!!!

  9. […] National Geographic Share this:DiggCorreo electrónicoImprimirShare on Tumblr Pin ItMe gusta:Me gustaSe el primero en […]

  10. Addison
    October 29, 2012, 1:54 pm

    Those lips…

  11. Julie Erickson
    Minneapolis, MN
    July 29, 2012, 4:59 am

    Ohh, I’m just fine, Trigger. Thank you very much. It’s really great seeing you again, man. I love love love your cool colors. Later.

  12. Peter Atef
    Egypt- Cairo
    May 2, 2012, 5:27 pm

    say , What’s up doc !

  13. ssemakula ronald
    April 25, 2012, 5:45 pm

    my real old African
    u should get this ancestral tooth brush
    a tree branch and whiten ya teeth

  14. Debra Eaglecloud
    Merritt Island Fla
    April 18, 2012, 10:41 pm

    Pollution runs deep, just look at what you did to my teeth!

  15. […] came across this photo of the triggerfish over on National Geographic’s blog, and felt the need to […]

  16. keyvan
    April 10, 2012, 5:15 am

    only the beautiful rhythm of colors.

  17. […]  /  via: […]

  18. […]  /  via: […]

  19. […]  /  via: […]

  20. car marie
    April 7, 2012, 5:46 pm

    I have to wait how long for an appointment with the dentist.

  21. Carla
    April 6, 2012, 6:52 am

    Oh Nooo…the dentist is coming…outta my way!!!

  22. Derpy
    April 6, 2012, 12:12 am

    He looks so .. British.

  23. El Tigre
    April 4, 2012, 11:33 pm

    This fish is British!! hahaha!

  24. Alka Misra
    April 4, 2012, 10:32 pm


  25. Mark
    April 4, 2012, 8:57 pm

    Great photo ! although the article doesn’t mention how territorial they are , I have had my finns and mask attacked by the peacful trigger fish , that inspires beauty !

  26. Jon
    April 4, 2012, 7:36 pm


  27. Joe terrazas
    April 4, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Check out my new GRILL~€:}

  28. darline harris
    United States
    April 4, 2012, 5:28 pm

    Hey Come back! I only eat vegetables !!

  29. Alena Fayant
    Moose Jaw Sk,Canada
    April 4, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I thought it was Triggerfish day!Not Groundhog day!…Wow my bad!…lol

  30. Nathan Bevan (facebook)
    New Zealand
    April 4, 2012, 4:16 pm

    Hey I might need some major dental work braces WHAT EVER! Im a Triggerfish look at ma sexy body!!!

  31. David Martin
    New York City
    April 4, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Great line about the trigger fish’s wild weekend in Sin City. Watch out ladiez!!!!

  32. Alex Bateman
    April 4, 2012, 7:22 am

    Nice picture, but if I saw a triggerfish looking at me like that I’d swim away quickly. They can be agressive and territorial and will attack divers. See this nice post on the subject:

  33. […] face, below the eye. Read more about this nature encounter at National Geographic News. Link -Thanks, […]

  34. […] Pitcairn Islands Expedition: Bizarre Fish Face… Apr. 3, 2012 (0) News Watch » […]