There are lots of unusual fish to spot on a dive and the bumbling Pufferfish and Porcupinefish are definitely among them. With their quirky appearance and clumsy swimming style, they captivate the imagination of scuba divers worldwide. There are many things to discover about these fascinating fish. So let’s dive into some Pufferfish facts.

 

Family Ties

Pufferfish belong to the Tetraodontidae (four teeth) family, which includes over 120 species found in tropical and subtropical waters. They get their Latin name from their two pairs of teeth that are fused together into a beak-like form.
Many divers confuse Porcupinefish and Pufferfish. That’s an understandable mistake because they are very closely related. Porcupinefish have visible spikes on their body (that are actually modified fish scales) whereas Pufferfish only have skin bumps or smaller spikes that are only visible when the fish is ‘puffed up’.

porcupinefish skeleton

Healthy appetite

They’re not too fussy about their food, these Pufferfish. They may eat crabs, shrimp, algae, corals, sponges, (bristle)worms, and starfish. Some even have a go at sea urchins or try to crack open shellfish with their strong teeth. Basically, if they can get their beak on it, it’ll go in there.

 

Masters of Defense

Pufferfish are renowned for their ability to inflate their bodies when threatened, transforming into spiky spheres that deter potential predators. They inflate by filling water or even air in their highly elastic stomach.

Some divers think that Pufferfish will die after blowing up several times. From their own poison or supposedly they can not breathe when inflated. That’s not true. However, scientists discovered that the oxygen consumption of the fish when inflated is five times higher, and that it took several hours to return to normal levels. In other words: it’s pretty stressful for them and it’s better not to annoy them to see them puff up for fun.

colorful-pufferfish

Deadly Toxins

They may appear cute but many species of Pufferfish carry potent toxins, known as tetrodotoxin. The toxin is found primarily in the liver, intestines, and skin.
Despite this toxic reputation, Pufferfish are considered a delicacy in certain cultures. In Japan, Fugu – Pufferfish sushi or sashimi has been a famous dish for centuries.

Only licensed chefs who followed years of intensive training are allowed to prepare Fugu by removing the toxic organs and cutting the meat into very thin slices. The meat is rubbery and tasteless but it is supposed to give a tingling sensation to the lips and tongue.

fugu

Intelligence

Pufferfish are surprisingly intelligent creatures, capable of problem-solving and learning. Most divers know that they can be very friendly and inquisitive. Some Pufferfish create amazingly beautiful nests with geometrical circular shapes in the sand. The male digs small ditches by using his belly and by flapping his fins. They meticulously clean the nest by removing small rocks and shells.

Another surprising aspect of pufferfish intelligence is their ability to use tools. In a study conducted by the University of Oxford, researchers observed a pufferfish using a clamshell to break open a clam.

 

Mysterious Migrations

Some species of pufferfish undertake remarkable migrations across vast distances, traveling thousands of miles in search of food, mates, or suitable breeding grounds. These epic journeys highlight the resilience and adaptability of these remarkable creatures.

 

 

Although they are a common sight for divers, Pufferfish are undeniably one of the ocean’s most intriguing inhabitants. So, the next time when you are underwater, keep an eye out for these amazing creatures. They may look a little clumsy but they can definitely take care of themselves!