From NOAA’s “Historic Fisheries Collection” we found a great hand drawing of a butterfly fish. The butterfly fish’s Hawaiian name, Kikakapu (Kīkākapu), includes the word “kapu,” meaning “forbidden.” Butterflyfish were part of the strict Hawaiian kapu religious system that included governance of which fish could be harvested depending upon season or royal decree. They can be found throughout Hawaii, usually in shallow coral reefs.
There are over 100 butterflyfish species in total. They are characterized by thin, disk-shaped bodies and spend most of their time in search of–and eating–polyps, worms, and small invertebrates from coral and rock formations.
Without the aid of color, we are not sure of the exact species of this particular butterflyfish. You can try to identify it yourself on Fish Base’s identification charts here. (We think it is most likely the Ornate Butterflyfish.)
Photo Date: 1896, Photographer: Archival Photographer Stefan Claesson, Credit: Gulf of Maine Cod Project, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries; Courtesy of National Archives