Priacanthus meeki Jenkins, 1903
Bigeyes are red or silvery nocturnal
fishes with deep, narrow (compressed) bodies, fine scales and upturned
mouths. There are two shallow-water species in Hawai`i both quite
similar in appearance. The Hawaiian Bigeye is endemic, while the
Common Bigeye (Heteropriacanthus cruentatus), also called
Glass-Eye or Goggle-Eye, occurs thoughout the Indo-Pacific. Both
species typically remain under ledges and in caves by day, seemingly
asleep. At this time they are are easy to approach and sometimes
even easy to touch. At night they emerge to feed on planktonic animals
high in the water column.
Bigeyes are known in Hawaiian as `äweoweo,
which means "glowing red." (The caldera atop Mauna Loa,
which during eruptions often holds a lava lake, is named Moku`äweoweo.)
The young are called `alalauä or`alauwä.
Two other bigeye species are known from deep water, including the
Giant `Äweoweo which attains 20 in. Although not often kept
in aquariums, small bigeyes do well in captivity.
Like many endemic fishes, Hawaiian Bigeyes
are most common in the cooler Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The species
name honors American ichthylogist Seth Eugene Meek (1859-1914).
Large specimens attain about 12 inches.
GREAT RUN OF 2003
In most years the Common Bigeye is
encountered much more frequently than the Hawaiian Bigeye, but this
summer was different. At some dive sites around O`ahu and Kaua`i
juveniles and subadults could be found in the hundreds under ledges
and in caves. Fishermen off Ke`eia Pier in Kane`ohe Bay, and other
spots as well, had little trouble filling their coolers with dozens
of these of these small fish. In ancient Hawai`i, large numbers
of red fish close to shore were said to foretell the death of a
chief. According to contemporary newspapers, in late January of
1891 (about the time when King Kaläkaua died in San Francisco)
a multitude of red fish were observed schooling in Pu`u Loa (Pearl
Harbor). They were probably Hawaiian Bigeyes. The last time a big
run of these fish was recorded was off Kaua`i in 1965.