SHARPNOSE PUFFER FISH: BAHAMAS REEF FISH (47)


Sharpnose Puffer Fish (Melinda Riger / G B Scuba)

SHARPNOSE PUFFER FISH: BAHAMAS REEF FISH (47)

It’s more than 4 years since I last wrote about these intriguing creatures and their endearing ways. It’s time for another look, with a new batch of great photos too. This is a species that lends itself to the ‘Fun Fact’ treatment, a method that tells you at least as much as you probably need – or want – to know about puffers. The message to take away is, best not to handle one – let alone eat one – unless you know exactly what you are doing…

Sharpnose Puffer Fish (Melinda Riger / G B Scuba)

10 PUFFER FISH FACTS TO ASTONISH YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS

1. Puffers can inflate their bodies in an instant by ingesting huge amounts of water and becoming water-filled balloons. Then their tiny spines stick out. 

2. They need a startling form of defence (or ‘piscatorial superpower’ Linnaeus 1763*) like this because they can’t swim very well to escape from predators: it’s surprising and intimidating – and it also makes them hard to eat.

3. However, a persistent predator undeterred by the trick will find that the puffer contains a toxin (tetrodotoxin TTX) that is said to be ‘1,200 times stronger than cyanide’. One puffer fish has enough toxin to kill up to 30 humans (National Geographic).

Sharpnose Puffer Fish (Melinda Riger / G B Scuba)

4. Notwithstanding the risks, selected parts of a puffer fish are a delicacy in some cultures (known as ‘fugu’ in Japan). Specially trained chefs are used to avoid mass deaths among diners. The insurance premiums must be huge.

5. Sharks are thought to be the only species immune to the puffer fish, and are not much bothered by a small fish that can blow itself up.

6. Puffers have skin, not scales; most have toxic fins or spines of some sort, besides toxic innards. Bright coloured kinds are likely to be more toxic than their duller cousins. This warning colouration in creatures is known as aposematism.

Sharpnose Puffer Fish (Melinda Riger / G B Scuba)

7. It’s worth finding out what an uninflated puffer looks like before you try to pet a random passing fish and have a toxic encounter. There is as yet no known antidote.

8. In all, there are more than a hundred puffer species in the world, all found where there are warm shallow waters. At least 3 main species – sharpnose, band-tail and chequered – are found in the Bahamas.

Sharpnose Puffer Fish (Melinda Riger / G B Scuba)

9. Some puffer species are not toxic at all; and some – especially in Pacific waters – are far more toxic than others. That’s the region where they are treated as a delicacy.

10. I’ve checked several research papers but I can’t find an evaluation of the relative toxicity as between the Bahamas puffer species. However it’s clear that the sharpnose is certainly not one play with. Take care!

Q. SO WHAT DOES AN INFLATED PUFFER LOOK LIKE? A. THIS!

Brian Lockwood took his life in his hands to get this fantastic shot…Sharpnose Puffer Fish (Brian Lockwood)

* Not really

RELATED POST: PORCUPINE FISH

Photo Credits: All puffer fish taken by Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba except for the photo of an inflated one from recent Abaco permanent resident Brian Lockwood

PUFFER FISH: BAHAMAS REEF FISH (19)


Sharpnose Puffer Fish

Sharpnose Puffer Fish

PUFFER FISH: BAHAMAS REEF FISH (19)

10 PUFFER FISH FACTS TO ASTONISH YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS

1. Puffers can inflate their bodies in an instant by ingesting huge amounts of water and becoming water-filled balloons.

2. They need a startling form of defence like this (or ‘piscatorial superpower’) because they can’t swim very well.

3. However, a persistent predator will find that they contain a toxin (tetrodotoxin TTX) that is a hundred times stronger than cyanide. One puffer fish has enough toxin to kill quite a few humans.  Agatha Christie was unaware of this – had she been, we might have had a classic  multiple murder mystery based on the contents of a fish tank… “Poirot and a Fishy Tale of the Caribbean”

Sharp Nose Puffer Fish ©Melinda Riger @GB Scuba

Sharpnose Puffer Fish

4. Selected parts of a puffer fish are a delicacy in some cultures (‘fugu’, in Japan). Trained chefs are used to avoid mass deaths among diners.

5. Sharks are the only species immune to the puffer fish and are not much bothered by a small fish that can blow itself up.

6. Puffers have skin, not scales; most have toxic spines of some sort. Bright coloured ones are probably more toxic than their duller cousins.

Sharp-nosed Puffer Fish ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba

Sharpnose Puffer Fish

7. It’s worth knowing what an uninflated puffer looks like before you try to pet a passing fish and have a toxic encounter.

8. There are more than a hundred puffer species in the world, found where there are warm shallow waters.

9. Noy all puffers are toxic; and some are more toxic than others.

10. I have no idea of the relative toxicity of the 2 puffer species featured here. Sorry about that. Take care!

Animal-Fish-Photo-Canthigaster-rostrata-Caribbean-Sharp-Nose-Puffer-1000x401 Animal-Fish-Photo-Canthigaster-rostrata-Inflated-Caribbean-Sharp-Nose-Puffer-1000x590

The fish above are all Sharpnose Puffer Fish taken by Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba; the rather nice drawings of the species are courtesy of the Smithsonian via ‘Vintage Printables’.  

CHECKERED PUFFER FISH

I photographed some Checkered Puffers at Sandy Point, Abaco last summer. None was puffed up, and I wasn’t about to upset them. The following photos of a small group of puffers were taken from above and not underwater (“no fear”). 

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Checkered Puffer Fish, Sandy Point, Abaco

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Checkered Puffer Fish, Sandy Point, Abaco

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Checkered Puffer Fish, Sandy Point, Abaco

I don’t know what species of puffer the one below may be, but I do know I don’t want it in the palm of my hand. I include it from an ‘info for kids’ site to illustrate what the full balloon looks like. I’m wondering if all one needs to deal with them is a pin on the end of a long stick…

puffer-fish-facts-for-kids

Puffer Fish at Full Puff

FURTHER READING about dodgy creatures you may encounter:

5 CREATURES ON ABACO THAT YOU MAY WISH TO AVOID

SPIDER WASPS & TARANTULA HAWKS: DON’T MESS WITH THESE GUYS