Tag Archives: Tobies

Lizardfish lunch

A lizardfish with a white-spotted toby in its mouth

This Reef Lizardfish snagged itself a prospective lunch. The trouble is, its lunch is a Whitespotted Toby and, like all pufferfish, one mode of defense is to inflate itself so it can’t be swallowed. This toby has done just that and the lizardfish will have a hard job getting that down.

If it is successful, it might still be in trouble since another of the toby’s defenses is a skin toxin which renders it, at best unpalatable, and at worst, deadly!

Being watched

An assortment of fish on the reef in Hawaii

While this isn’t the greatest photo, I liked how the very small inhabitants of this rocky area were all looking at me at the same time. At the top is a juvenile wrasse, probably a Saddle Wrasse, though the Bird Wrasse is somewhat similar. The middle two are Bright-eye Damselfishes, and at the bottom is an Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby, the giant of the group at about 3 inches long.

Whitespotted Toby and urchin

A Whitespotted Toby and a sea urchin in Hawaii

The Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby is a small pufferfish that’s endemic to Hawaii. Like many small fish, and juveniles of larger fish, they will use the quills of sea urchins to shelter from predators. Not that tobies need too much help. When attacked they inflate themselves like a balloon, making them hard to swallow. In addition, this toby secretes a nasty skin toxin which will deter most predators.

Varicose phyllidia

This varicose phyllidia is a small nudibranch, which I saw several times over the course of a week or so. Apart from being a lot smaller than the clumpy nudibranchs I saw a couple of months back, the varicose phyllidia has gills under the mantle skirt rather than in an exposed, wavy clump.

This one was two to three inches long. In the middle photo, the tiny white-spotted toby and small brown surgeonfish give a sense of scale.

Ambon toby

An Ambon Toby swims in the shallows off the Big Island of Hawaii.

I saw this little ambon toby in the shallows one day. The lines radiating from the eyes are quite distinctive. Supposedly they can be skittish and hard to approach, but this one seemed unperturbed by my presence.


Hawaiian whitespotted toby

A female Hawaiian whitespotted toby preparing to lay eggsA pair of Hawaiian whitespotted tobies preparing to lay and fertilize eggs
Hawaiian whitespotted tobies are small pufferfish, under 4 inches long. The one in the top photo is a female, probably looking for a spot to deposit her eggs. The toby following her (second photo) is a male. After she’s deposited her eggs he’ll fertilize them. Neither will stay with the eggs.

A couple of days after taking this photo, I was in a different location when another pair of these tobies zipped up to me and went by a foot away. In that case, it was two males, the one vigorously defending its territory from the interloper.

In my attempts to identify what I see in the water, I use John P. Hoover’s book The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals. His website is hawaiisfishes.com.