The map pufferfish or scribbled puffer, Arothron mappa are not commonly seen on the reefs in East Africa. They obtain their name from the patterns on the body. 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.
Map Pufferfish have no scales or lateral line and have a set of protruding nostrils on the snout. The background color is a yellow colour in Tanzania. They have black and white lines which radiate out from the eye and form random patterns across the body.They have no pelvic fins and the fins are semi translucent but are dark with white dots. They have the ability to move their eyes independently and have good vision.
Full grown they can grow up to 65 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.
IN THE WILD
Map Pufferfish are usually seen swimming just above the reef and close to cover. Despite their poisonous defense they take no 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 are territorial and are usually solitary. With their beak they can give a powerful bite and great care should be taken handing these fish.
Map pufferfish are found across the Indo Pacific area, usually close to the reef and in lagoons to a depth of 30 meters. Because of their diet they are usually found on reef tops.
MapPufferfish use their impressive looking teeth to feed mainly on benthic crustacean, sponges and algaes. They have four teeth which are fused into a sharp edged beak and the teeth continue growing throughout their life. They have a powerful bite.
Pufferfish are considered a delicacy in Japan and are bred commercially, so we know something of their behavior. The male constructs a flattened circle in the sand and when a female nears, the male will swim around throwing up sand. If the female enters the circle eggs are released by the female and fertilized by the male, these then drop into the sand and later hatch. The larvae are planktonic.
Map Pufferfish are kept by some aquarists, but because of their constantly growing teeth, they require regular feeds on hard shelled crustaceans to prevent the teeth from growing too far and becoming unusable. They are not aggressive fish, but may attempt to eat smaller sickly fishes and may nip long finned fishes. Because of their potential size they require a large tank. They will also eat most invertebrates and may damage corals.