Puffer fish: what you need to know



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Puffer fish: what you need to know

Puffers are widespread in most tropical waters around the globe. Some species, such as Tetraodon miurus, only live in fresh water. Although not an excellent swimmer due to the rigidity of its body, the puffer fish is not an object of predation as it is equipped with two particular defense systems.

It is able to quickly swallow large quantities of water, becoming very large and difficult to swallow even for large predators, moreover, its viscera and muscles contain a very powerful poison, tetradotoxin, a neurotoxin that inhibits respiratory function, rapidly leading to death.

The entrails and meat of many family members are deadly due to the presence of tetradotoxin, nevertheless they are consumed in Japan, after proper preparation. The puffer fish feed mainly on molluscs, crustaceans, jellyfish and coral polyps, of which they break the shells or the exoskeletal structure with their 4 very hard teeth and powerful muscles.

They manage to break even dead corals.

Puffer fish: what you need to know

Puffers are morphologically very similar to Diodontidae, commonly known as porcupine fish, which have large external spines on the body unlike puffers which carry much thinner and generally hidden spines that can only be observed when the fish inflates into a puffer.

The name Tetraodontidae derives from the Greek language with the meaning of four teeth and refers to the fact that the puffers all have 4 large teeth fused into two plates, one upper and one lower, used to break the shells and shells of molluscs and crustaceans, their natural prey.

Most puffers are venomous and some are even among the most venomous vertebrates in existence. In some species, in fact, some internal organs such as the liver, but also the skin contain tetrodotoxin, one of the most powerful neurotoxins known.

They are somewhat similar to the terrestrial chameleon. Although most puffers are drab, many have bright colors and distinctive markings, and make no attempt to hide from predators.