These masked bandits of the Hawaiian waters are known collectively as the butterflyfish, aptly named, as their colorful and flat bodies flutter over the reef much like their aerial counterparts flutter in our gardens. We are host to about twenty-five species, four of which are endemic: the milletseed, pebbled, orangemargined and bluestripe butterflyfish. Many sport the eye mask, as well as a eye spot near the tail called an ocelli in an effort to confuse predators. Their laterally compressed bodies help them to slip into slender cracks in the reef, and sharp spines on their dorsal and anal fins add further protection. Days are spent dining on plankton, coral polyps or invertebrates; the nocturnal raccoon butterflyfish seen on the upper right is an exception. The family name, Chaetodontidae, refers to their brushlike teeth, which may be a compromise between benthic feeding (ocean bottom) and planktivory. In Hawaii, several butterflyfish species are known as kikakapu, a reference to their sacred stature. Others take on the name of Lau-Hau or Lau-wiliwili, which likens their flat shapes to the rounded leaves of the hau and wiliwili trees. Most are found in shallow waters in pairs or schools, though some will venture into deeper waters. In general, they are homebodies, and tend to stick to familiar territory. At night, butterflyfish turn the lights out on their coloration - their brilliant colors become duller, and they seek out a slim crack in the reef to snuggle into. Sleep "tight" butterflyfish.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.