The Blacklip Porcupinefish (Lophodiodon calori) is also known as the Burrfish or Four-bar Porcupinefish. They are members of the pufferfish family and are able to take water into their stomachs and blow themselves up. As with many other puffers, they have a symbiotic relationship with types of bacteria such as Pseudoalteromonas tetraodonis.
This bacteria produces tetradotoxin which is a powerful neurotoxin. These tetradoxin’s are found in their skin and internal organs. They are not commonly seen and are one of the least studied pufferfish Little seems to be known of their habits. Because of their prominently marked black lips they are easy to distinguish from other porcupinefish.
Blacklip Porcupinefish have no scales or lateral line and have a set of slightly protruding nostrils on the snout. The background colour is a light brown with numerous white and yellow dots. There are four darker brown or blackish bars across the body and the lips are black. The underside of the body is a light brown colour. They have no pelvic fins and the anal and dorsal fins are set far back on the body.
The caudal, anal and dorsal fin are a light brown colour and the pelvic fins are a translucent yellow brown colour. Their body is covered with a series of short spines that are either white, yellow or brown-black in colour. The spines on the head and belly are movable whereas they have fixed spines on the back and sides. They have the ability to move their large eyes independently and have good vision.
Full grown they can be up to 30 cm in length although usually they are slightly smaller. As with all pufferfish or blow fish as they are sometimes known, they have the ability to take water into their stomach to swell themselves up, making it harder for a predator to fit them in its mouth. The spines which point upwards when the fish inflates its self are an added defence making them rather unpalatable.
IN THE WILD
Blacklip Porcupinefish are nocturnal feeders and are usually seen swimming just above the reef and close to cover. Alternatively they are seen resting on the bottom during the day. Despite their poisonous defense they seldom take chances. If a diver nears them they will usually duck into a hole and are hard to approach too closely.
They will usually swim off at a slight angle allowing one of their eyes to point backwards to watch you. They have the ability to darken their colour and when resting during the day on the reef they darken their colouration to camouflage themselves. When disturbed they quickly change back to their usual colouration. The camouflage is quite effective.
They are territorial and are usually solitary. With their beak they can give a powerful bite and great care should be taken handing these fish.
Blacklip Porcupinefish are found across the Indo West Pacific area, and live close to the reef and in lagoons to a depth of 100 meters. Because of their mainly hard shelled invertabrate diet they are usually found close to the reef.
Blacklip Porcupinefish are thought to feed mainly on hard shelled invertabrates. They appear to be one of the less studied members of the pufferfish family and as a result not that much is known of their habits. As with all pufferfish they have four teeth which are fused into a sharp edged beak and the teeth continue growing throughout their life. They have a very powerful bite.
Pufferfish are considered a delicacy in Japan and are bred commercially, so we know something of their behaviour but the behaviour varies from species to species. The Blacklip porcupinefish appears not to have been studied at all and as a consequence very little is known of their behaviour. It is assumed that the female lays her eggs into the water table and that these are then fertilised by the male. Once the eggs hatch the juveniles become planktonic until reaching a certain size whereupon they become benthic.
Blacklip Porcupinefish are not very common and are probably not kept by many aquarists. Because of their constantly growing teeth, they would require regular feeds on hard shelled invertebrates to prevent the teeth from growing too far and becoming unusable. Their size would require a large aquarium.
BLACKLIP PORCUPINEFISH CLASSIFICATION
- The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates: East and South Coasts of Southern Africa by Dennis King & Valda Fraser
- Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia