The common longnose butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus) is one of two longnose butterflyfish species found in Hawaii. Commonly known as forcepfish, this species is better known by its Hawaiian name, lauwiliwili nukunuku ‘oi‘oi, which is the longest Hawaiian name for a fish. Both species go by the same Hawaiian name.
Lauwiliwili refers to the similarity between the shape of the fish’s body and the wiliwili tree’s leaf, which is oval and turns yellow as it ages. Nukunuku (snout) and ‘oi‘oi (sharp) describe the fish’s narrow, elongated mouth. Together, it loosely translates as “long-snout fish shaped like a wiliwili leaf.” The longnose butterfly fish’s flat-shaped body allows it to quickly maneuver between corals while its sharp spines protect it from predators. Its distinct, beak-like mouth is used to probe corals and reef crevices for small invertebrates and crustaceans, and often used in cleaning stations to remove crustacean parasites from their fellow reef fish.
This species can grow up to seven inches in length and is found throughout the Indo-Pacific and Eastern Pacific regions. They are commonly found in shallow water habitats near reef structure including walls and overhangs.
Did you know? In 1984, over 55,000 public votes were cast to name the State of Hawaii’s official fish. The lauwiliwili nukunuku ‘oi‘oi finished in third place following a narrow defeat by the manini (convict tang) and a landslide victory by the humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a.