Puffer fish is also known as blow fish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, puffer fish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times . Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.
There are more than 120 species of puffer fish worldwide. Most are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and even fresh water. They have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colors to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic coloring to blend in with their environment.
They range in size from the 1-inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) dwarf or pygmy puffer to the freshwater giant puffer, which can grow to more than 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length. They are scaleless fishes and usually have rough to spiky skin. All have four teeth that are fused together into a beak-like form. Some species of pufferfish are considered vulnerable due to pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing, but most of the populations are considered stable.
Interesting Puffer fish Facts:
- Puffer fish vary in size from one inch long pygmy puffer, to a two feet long freshwater giant puffer. Main feature, common for all puffer fish, is ability to ingest huge amount of water (and air sometimes) which increases their body size and turn them into odd-looking ball-like creatures. Quick transformation scares predators.
- Scientists believe that puffer fish developed this tactic as a method of the self-defense because they are poor swimmers that cannot escape from the danger quickly. Increase of the body size is not the only tactic used against the predators.
- Almost all species of puffer fish contain toxin (called tetrodotoxin) that can be 1200 times stronger than cyanide. One puffer fish contains enough toxin to kill 30 adult men. Toxin is not located in all parts of the puffer fish, and certain cultures prepare puffer fish (meal called fugu in Japan) as a delicacy. Only specially trained chief can clean the fish properly and prepare delicious and toxin-free meal. Just one wrong cut of the fish meat can result in the death of the customer.
- Sharks are the only species immune to the puffer fish’s toxin. They can eat puffer fish without any negative consequences. Puffer fish can be discretely or brightly colored.
- There is often relationship between the body coloration and the amount of toxin produced by the fish (brighter colors are often associated with large quantity of toxin in the fish).
- Some species have spines on the skin, which offer additional protection against the predators. The most elastic part of their body is skin on the stomach area. When puffer fish ingests water, skin on the stomach expands several times of the normal size of the fish.
- Puffer fish have four teeth that are fused in the beak-like structure. They use their teeth for opening of mussels, clams and shellfish.
- Puffer fish also eat algae and different types of worms and crustaceans.
- Puffer fish have excellent eyesight.
- Puffer fish reach sexual maturity at the age of five. Male guides the female to the shallow water (close to the shore) where she will release (usually) between three to seven eggs.
- Young fish are protected by the hard egg shell that will crack as soon as they are ready to hatch. After leaving the egg, young puffer fish swim toward the reef’s community. Although some baby puffer fish cannot be seen without magnifying glass, their body shape resembles those of the adult animals.
- Average lifespan of the puffer fish is around 10 years.