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Species Spotlight: Puffer Fish

a fish swimming under water

The pufferfish, also called blowfish, swellfish, globefish and balloonfish, are named for their ability to inflate themselves to several times their normal size by swallowing water or air when threatened.  Their scientific name, Tetraodon, refers to the fact that they have four large teeth, fused into an upper and lower plate, which are used for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks, their natural prey.

a close up of a fish

Few fish are cuter than a fully expanded, portly pufferfish — but don’t be fooled. The pufferfish is the second most poisonous vertebrate on the planet. The poison of a pufferfish, which has no antidote, kills by paralyzing the diaphragm, causing suffocation.  Nearly all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them  taste bad (and sometimes lethal) to fish. According to National Geographic, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. One pufferfish has enough toxin to kill 30 adults.

There are about 120 species of pufferfish – and many can be found while diving the Belize Barrier Reef with ReefCI!!  Keep your eyes peeled, but don’t touch as this non-aggressive fish is poisonous!