Xanthichthys greenei is now the official name given to the popular ‘Kiri’ triggerfish that has been an infrequent collection for aquariums. Over the past four years or so the Christmas Island triggerfish has gone by the provisional Xanthichthys ‘dorsopunctatus’ and X. kiritimati but the new X. greenei name actually honors the man who first collected the fish – with his bare hands!
Brian Greene first spotted Xanthichthys greenei at a mesophotoic depth of 90 to 100 m (295-330ft) at the Kiritimati of the Line Islands. The first specimen Brian caught with his bare hands for which he paid a price inflicted by the capable teeth and jaws that triggerfish are well known for. Brian follows in the footsteps of his deep diving companions on the discovery of the triggerfish, Rich Pyle and John Earle, themselves renowned deep divers who already have cool fish named after them, and who also happen to be the co-authors of the description of Xanthichthys greenei in the Biodiversity Journal.
We got in touch with Brian Greene and asked him about this discovery, this was his reply:
“So back in 2005 Richard, John Earle and I spent 2 weeks at Xmas [Island]. We sent some of our kit down on a barge from Honolulu and flew down with the rest. When we got to Xmas we had a hard time tracking down most of our equipment including our collecting nets. We wanted to do a work up dive, just to make sure our Cis-Lunar Mk5 rebreathers survived the trip. It was exciting, I remember it being slightly murky until about 50m, got bumped by a Grey Reef shark and buzzed by a Marlin.”
“At about 75m, all three of us were buzzed by a very large Carcharinus limbatus. Immediately after that I saw the small ledge below us buzzing with a triggerfish I did not recognize. Having no nets I chased one into a hole in the ledge and fished it out by hand, in the process getting bit and losing a chunk of my index finger. After I pulled it out of the reef I realized I had no collecting bucket and did not want to hold it in my hand for the next 3.5 hours, so I shoved it in my pocket.
Then I forgot about it and did not realize that I had a possible new trigger species until about the last deco stop. We were all very excited after the dive, found our collecting gear the next day and were able to collect 5 additional specimens before the trip was over.”
Huge thanks for Brian Greene for recounting the story of the Kiri triggerfish’s discovery and congrats on risk life and the tip of his limb to make sure that first specimen of Xanthichthys greenei was collected.