Physical characteristics

There is some variability within this order, but all are distinguished by fused teeth within their jaws. Spikefishes are compressed, high bodied (great in depth), or elongate; some have concave foreheads and others elongated, tubelike snouts. The caudal fin is rounded to truncated, and there are 12-18 soft rays in the dorsal fin and 11-16 rays in the anal fin. Coloring is orange, yellow, or pink. Triplespines are compressed and elongate, with steeply sloping foreheads, narrow caudal peduncles, and forked tails. The first dorsal spine is large. The coloring is silvery, with hints of yellow or pale olive. The box-fishes are indeed boxlike, with bodies covered in bony-like plates. They have large rounded or truncated caudal fins and the ability, in numerous species, to secrete ostracitoxin (a poison that makes the creature unpalatable) as an anti-predatation mechanism. Some species have horns that protrude from their heads. A few species are brightly colored, but most are dull or cryptic.

Filefishes and leather jackets also vary in shape and appearance. Generally, they are compressed and somewhat elongate, and they may have steeply sloped foreheads. Others are rhomboid in shape. At least one species, Anacanthus barbatus, is long and slender and resembles superficially a pipefish (Syg-nathidae). The first dorsal spine usually is tall and strong. The caudal fin is truncated or slightly rounded. Color patterns vary, ranging from bright colors to cryptic or nondescript shades. Triggerfishes are compressed, rhomboid, or slightly elongate, with pelvic fins that are fused into a single spine. The first dorsal spine is capable of locking by using the second spine as a trigger that locks it into place. It is used as an anti-predation mechanism. The eyes can rotate independently of each other. Color patterns also vary and may be spectacular and bright or quite dull or cryptic.

The threetooth puffer has a beak consisting of three fused teeth, with a median suture in the upper jaw. The body is

A shy toby (Canthigaster ocellicincta) sleeps in the Gorgonian coral at night in the South China Sea near the Sipadan Island of Borneo. (Photo by Jeff Rotman/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

elongate, compressed, and inflatable. The caudal penduncle is long, and the caudal fin forked. Pufferfishes have four teeth fused together to form a beak, but there are medial sutures in both the upper and lower jaws. Their bodies are elongate, usually compressed or rhomboid in shape, and inflatable. There are seven to 18 soft rays in both the dorsal and anal fins, respectively. Many species have small prickles on the skin of their bellies. Their skin, entrails, and sometimes their flesh may contain tetraodotoxin, an anti-predation poison that is highly toxic. Porcupinefishes are large, elongate, robust, and somewhat boxlike, and they are capable of inflation. They have numerous spines along the body. The two teeth on their jaws are fused into a beak. Molas are large, compressed, and typically high-bodied fishes, with jaws that support two fused teeth. The caudal fin may be replaced by a clavus, which is used to stablize the fish when swimming. The dorsal and anal fins are set high. Both the lateral line and swimbladder are missing from adults.

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