<figcaption> Credit: Courtesy of Kendall Clements</figcaption>
Credit: Courtesy of Kendall Clements

Surgeonfish aren't as dedicated to life-saving as their name implies - quite the opposite, in fact. While sample-gathering in the Seychelles in May 2001, marine biologist J. Howard Choat wrongly assumed that he had killed a surgeonfish (genus Naso). When he took the fish off the spear, one of its razor-sharp caudal knives sliced open his right palm, severing two tendons. He received timely emergency care, but the wound didn't heal properly, leaving him with an uncontrollably stiffened outstretched middle finger. This was socially awkward, to say the least, so Choat asked a "real" surgeon to sever the tendons, and now his middle finger hangs limp. He calls this "the surgeonfish's revenge."

When Kendall Clements, a marine biologist at the University of Auckland, snorkels from his boat to an idyllic tropical reef to gather samples of surgeonfish for his nutritional ecology studies, he brings...

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