The name surgeonfish comes from the scalpel-like spines on the tail of the fish. These spines are very sharp and act as swords for protection. When sparring with competition, a surgeonfish will try to sideswipe its rival. This mutual attempt at sideswiping appears as a circular dance to a snorkeler but in fact is quite the opposite! These fish are mostly herbivores. They have small mouths which are designed for scraping alae off rocks and coral. They are very colorful, and found mostly in shallow waters.
The eyestripe surgeonfish, or palani, rests during the day – usually under ledges. This surgeonfish is distinctive for its bright white scalpel. It has a conspicuous yellow band over its eyes and a beautiful bright blue tail speckled with black spots. Palani is a Hawaiian word meaning “stink” because of the strong odor this fish has when cooked.