Fun Thornback Cowfish Facts For Kids

Gurpuneet Kaur
Feb 20, 2024 By Gurpuneet Kaur
Originally Published on Sep 27, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Read these fun and interesting thornback cowfish facts about one of the uncommon marine creatures from the Ostraciidae family.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.5 Min

Among the scaled marine creatures, fish were the first vertebrates to develop bones. Fish are further classified into 34,000 various species which inhabit the water. Surprisingly, fish have adapted and developed several senses like transmitting sound through water, dispersing chemicals, and conducting electricity. Also, fish are known to rely upon their sense of hearing, taste, and smell rather than their vision. A thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, is a tropical fish found across the Indo-Pacific from East Africa to South Austral Islands around the depth length ranging between 10-426.5 ft (3-130 m) near the corals, reefs, and sandy beds.

The binomial name, Lactoria fornasini, coined by an Italian zoologist, Giovanni Giuseppe Bianconi, is known to have several synonymous names like Lactoria fuscomaculata, Lactoria galeodon, Lactoria pentacanthus, Ostracion fornasini, and Ostracion pentacanthus. Also, the tropical fish, thornback cowfish (Lactoria fornasini), has various vernacular names including thorny-back cowfish, thornback boxfish, spinybacked cowfish, blue-spotted cowfish, thornback cow, backspine cowfish, and many more. This tropical fish from the Indo-Pacific has an omnivorous diet, primarily feeding on invertebrates, krill, shrimps, clam, mussels, and marine algae. The boxfish, as the name reflects, has a boxy-shaped body with two spines like horns and protruding lips.

If the uniqueness of a thornback cowfish makes you interested to read more about similar species, you can check out rainbow cichlid facts and longnose gar facts.

Thornback Cowfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a thornback cowfish?

A thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, is a species of boxfish endemic to the tropical and temperate waters around the Indo-Pacific region. It is often found in the reef and coral sea around a depth range of 10-426.5 ft (3-130 m). The specific epithet in the binomial name of the species coined by Bianconi honors an Italian naturalist working in Mozambique, Carlo Antonio Fornasini. It has several synonymous names for the binomial name like Lactoria fuscomaculata, Lactoria galeodon, Lactoria pentacanthus, Ostracion fornasini, and Ostracion pentacanthus. Also, it has various vernacular names including thorny-back cowfish, thornback boxfish, spinybacked cowfish, blue-spotted cowfish, thornback cow, and backspine cowfish.

What class of animal does a thornback cowfish belong to?

The thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, belongs to the class Actinopterygii, order Tetraodontiformes, family Ostraciidae, and genus Lactoria.

How many thornback cowfish are there in the world?

Neither the conservation status of the thornback cowfish is recorded nor the population of species is computed. Although it is speculated to have a healthy population around the Indo-Pacific water, concerning threats to its life highlight predators, humans, and habitat loss, primarily caused due to reef destruction which makes it one of the uncommon species.

Where does a thornback cowfish live?

The thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, is found to live near the reef-bed, sandy bottom, or corals of the temperate-tropical water bodies from East Africa to South Austral Islands in Indo-Pacific waters. Also, the range of the species extends between southeastern Africa to Japan, Australia, Hawaii, Indonesia, and islands such as Madagascar and Little Rapa.

What is a thornback cowfish's habitat?

The thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, is a coastal sea-fish that lives near the reef-bed, sandy bottom, or weedy area of tropical and temperate waters. It is often found at depths of 10-426.5 ft (3-130 m).

Who do thornback cowfish live with?

While species of fish like herrings live in schools or shoals, a thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, is known to lead a solitary life. Often during the breeding season, the species from the family Ostraciidae are found in pairs. Also, males are reported to be territorial around their breeding season.

How long does a thornback cowfish live?

The life span of the thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, remains unrecorded, while a bigmouth buffalo fish is known as the longest living freshwater fish with a lifespan ranging up to 112 years.

How do they reproduce?

Although the reproductive behavior of the thornback cowfish is poorly studied, it is an oviparous species laying eggs. Also, its breeding season is not recorded, while it is speculated that males become territorial during the mating season.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the thornback cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, is Not Evaluated under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Thornback Cowfish Fun Facts

What do thornback cowfish look like?

The thornback cowfish is a coastal fish with a boxy shape, unusual patterns, protruding lips, and horn-like spines.

The thornback cowfish has a boxy-shaped body with a rounded belly, considerably large eyes, a uniquely fan-shaped tail, and protruding lips. It has a yellow-brown tanned pelage, often recorded orange and red in color with hexagonal patterns highlighted by blue or purple patterns. Also, it has two horn-like spines, one on its head and the other near the anal fin.

How cute are they?

It is among the most adorable species found in marine habitats. With an unusual boxy shape and a bright-colored body, the boxfish never fails to catch your attention. The blue and purple markings forming a series of hexagons on a yellow, orange, or brown pelage are quite sure to engage you in studying the patterns on the scaly body.

How do they communicate?

The communication mechanism of the thornback fish is poorly studied, while fish, in general, are known to communicate using various gestures and motions.

How big is a thornback cowfish?

The length of the thornback cowfish ranges between 6-9 in (15-23 cm), making it two times smaller than an Atlantic moonfish.

How fast can a thornback cowfish swim?

There is no record of the exact speed at which the thornback cowfish can swim.

How much does a thornback cowfish weigh?

The weight of the thornback cowfish is not recorded so far.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female of the species do not have sex-specific names.

What would you call a baby thornback cowfish?

A baby thornback cowfish is often called a fry.

What do they eat?

A thornback cowfish is an omnivore, primarily preying upon small invertebrates, krill, shrimps, clam, and mussels. Also, it feeds upon coral bommie and marine algae.

Are they dangerous?

A thornback cowfish or thornback cow is a poisonous fish according to the research. Though it does not possess any danger until threatened, the toxin released by the fish can be quite harmful or dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

The thornback cowfish is known to release toxins and make sudden movements and loud noises. Thus, it can be challenging for them to be kept in captivity.

Did you know...

The thornback cowfish was first named and documented in 1846 by Italian naturalist, Giovanni Giuseppe Bianconi.

What type of fish is thornback cowfish?

Thornback cowfish or thornback cow is a freshwater boxfish found in the Indo-Pacific waters at a depth between 10-426.5 ft (3-130 m). Also, it is a poisonous species known to secrete toxins into the water.

How many eggs do thornback cowfish lay?

The thornback cowfish is an oviparous species, but the litter size of the fish is unknown.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our round goby facts and bonito fish facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable intricate fish coloring pages.

Main image by Bernard DuPont.

Second image by Rickard Zerpe.

Thornback Cowfish Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Invertebrates, krill, shrimps, clam, mussels, marine algae

What Type of Animal were they?

Omnivore

Average Litter Size?

N/A

How Much Did They Weigh?

N/A

What habitat Do they Live In?

Sea reefs, weedy areas, corals, lagoons

Where Do They Live?

east africa, South Austral Islands, indo-pacific

How Long Were They?

6-9 in (15-23 cm)

How Tall Were They?

N/A

Class

Actinopterygii

Genus

Lactoria

Family

Ostraciidae

Scientific Name

Lactoria fornasini

What Do They Look Like?

Yellow, blue, green, gray, brown, orange, red, purple

Skin Type

Scales

What Are Their Main Threats?

humans, predators, habitat loss

What is their Conservation Status?

Not Evaluated
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Written by Gurpuneet Kaur

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Gurpuneet Kaur picture

Gurpuneet KaurBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

As a skilled content writer, Gurpuneet has written and managed engaging content for multiple websites and companies. Driven by a passion for helping young people achieve their full potential, she brings a unique perspective to her work. She is currently pursuing a degree in Economics from Sri Guru Gobind Singh College Of Commerce. With extensive experience as a tutor, Gurpuneet has made a significant impact by providing guidance and academic support to students. Her dedication extends beyond tutoring as she has volunteered with Action India, where she offered medical assistance and educational aid to underprivileged communities. Additionally, Gurpuneet has contributed to the creation of student study guides for various educational agencies.

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