Pufferfish, also called puffers, balloonfish, blowfish, bubblefish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, todies, honey toads, sugar toads and sea squab, are from the family Tetraodontidae which includes at least 120 species of puffers.
They are most diverse in the tropics, and completely absent from cold waters. Pufferfish are typically small to medium in size. Some species however can reach lengths of greater than 100 cm (39″). The puffer’s unique and distinctive natural defenses help compensate for its slow locomotion.
They move by combining pectoral, dorsal, anal and caudal fins. This makes them highly maneuverable, but very slow.
PUFFERFISH DEFENCE MECHANISMS
Their tail fin is mainly used as a rudder, but can be used for a sudden evasive burst of speed. This speed burst, combined with the puffer’s excellent eye site, is the first and most important defense against predators.
If pursued, the fish’s defense mechanism is to fill its extremely elastic stomach with water (or air when outside the water).This makes it much larger and almost spherical in shape. Even if they aren’t visible when the puffer is not inflated, all pufferfish have pointed spines. So a hungry predator may suddenly find itself facing an unpalatable, pointy ball rather than a slow, tasty fish.
Predators who do not heed this warning may die from choking. For those who do manage to swallow the puffer, they may find their stomachs full of tetrodotoxin. This makes puffers an unpleasant, possibly lethal choice of prey. This neurotoxin is found primarily in the ovaries and liver of the puffer, with smaller amounts existing in the intestines, skin and muscle.
It doesn’t always have a lethal effect on large predators, such as sharks, but it can kill humans. Puffers are able to move their eyes independently, and many species can change the color or intensity of their patterns in response to environmental changes. Most pufferfish have bright colors and distinctive markings and make no attempt to hide from predators.