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You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/features/nohu


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Creature Feature - Nohu, Land and Sea Counterparts
Titan Scorpion Fish
Scorpaenopsis cacopsis (Jenkins)
Puncture Vine
Tribulus citadoides (unknown)
Hawaiian Name (for both): Nohu

Nohu - Titan Scorpion Fish and Puncture Vine.  Photos by Jim Watt and Andy Collins.

One of the most important concepts in science and ecology is the interrelationship between different species in the web of life. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as they provide an excellent backdrop to studying the roles of various plant and animal species in their communities. Both in land and sea, certain species of life play similar roles and functions in their environment.

Traditionally in Hawai`i, this was understood, as plants and animals were assigned names according to how they functioned holistically in the natural world. One example of this is the Hawaiian nohu. On land, the nohu (Tribulus citadoides) is known as the "puncture vine," and it is an indigenous perennial plant that crawls along the ground in dry areas. In the sea, the nohu (Scorpaenopsis cacopsis) is known as the "titan scorpion fish," and it is a mottled orange-red fish, with fleshy flaps on its head and body, with long dorsal spines and pectoral rays. This fish lives in the reef areas, usually under overhangs.

Although one is a plant, and the other is an animal, both of these species share some very similar characteristics. Both the plant and the fish have spikes as a natural means of defense against predators. The nohu plant has large spiny seeds that aid in its ability to withstand predators. Similarly, the nohu fish has large dorsal spines that are venomous and protect it from larger fish. Both of these species are camouflaged, meaning they blend in well with their environment. They are both hearty species that thrive in difficult areas. They can be found in large populations in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands compared to our main eight islands, so this is a great opportunity to highlight these two remarkable species that are so beautiful, yet dangerous to step on!

Medical Tips: If stuck by a venomous nohu fish spine place the wounded body part in water as hot as can be tolerated… this will lessen the pain. Then go and see a doctor immediately! Also if you are on land, in areas where the nohu plant grows, wear thick footwear so you the spikes don't get through. If they do happen to go through your shoes, don't worry they are not poisonous like the fish. Just take care of your cut so that it doesn't get infected.

Posted by Scott Kikiloi, graduate researcher, Center for Hawaiian Studies U.H.M.

Reference: Randall 1996 Shore Fishes of Hawai`i.

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