Smooth Trunkfish

Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter

The Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter, whose common Spanish name is chapín baqueta, is a member of the Boxfish or Ostraciidae Family, known collectively as peces cofre in Mexico. There are only three global members in the genus Lactophrys, all three being found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic.

The Smooth Trunkfish have oblong thick bodies with a humped back and are enclosed in a bony box formed by thickened, joined, enlarged, and hexagonal scale plates. The box has openings for the mouth, eyes, gill slits, fins, and tail. Their body is triangular-shaped being narrow on top and wide at the base. They are brown-black and are covered with numerous small spots that are white, cream or yellow. They have an area with scales on their lower mid-body made up of hexagonal groups of pale spots with a honeycomb pattern. Their fins are yellowish with dark bases and tips. Their eyes and the tip of their snout are black. Juveniles are black with large white or yellow spots. They have a pointed snout with protuberant fleshy lips encircling a small mouth that opens in the front and is equipped with small conical teeth and short gill slits. Their anal and dorsal fins are far back on the body. Their caudal fin is fan-like and rounded. They do not have pelvic fins or spines on their fins. Their lateral line is inconspicuous.

The Smooth Trunkfish are slow swimmers found in and around coral and over sandy seabeds at depths up to 165 feet. Adults are stationary while juveniles are pelagic and sometimes enter estuaries. They reach a maximum length of 47 cm (19 inches). They are normally found as solitary individuals but can occasionally be seen in small groups. They are protected by a slime coat covering the body that contains ostracitoxin that can kill other fish, thus making them unsuitable for use in aquariums. They probe the bottom generating a jet steam of water ejected through the mouth to expose benthic invertebrates including acorn worms, mollusks, peanut worms, polychaete worms, and sponges on which they feed.

In Mexican waters the Smooth Trunkfish are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

The Smooth Trunkfish is similar in size and shape to several other trunkfish. Only the Spotted Trunkfish, Lactoprys bicaudalis, has spots covering its body, however these spots are dark.

The Smooth Trunkfish are of limited interest to most but are visually awesome, thus make a nice table decor if allowed to dry..

Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter. Fish caught off the Anglins Pier, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Florida, March 2015. Length: 20 cm (7.9 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.