Five tough-to-swallow facts about the bizarrely beautiful pufferfish
Perhaps most famous for the potentially deadly Japanese dish created from it, the pufferfish is a small family of fish that’s highly toxic and particularly tough to swallow.
Are pufferfish poisonous?
Their reproductive organs and liver contain large quantities of tetrodotoxin, an extremely potent neurotoxin 1,200-times more poisonous than cyanide, which has no known cure. It’s deadly to most animals but despite this, pufferfish, or fugu, is considered a delicacy in Japan and fugu chefs receive special training to safely prepare fish.
Do pufferfish have teeth?
Pufferfish have four large teeth that are fused into the upper and lower plates of their jaw. These are used to break and crush the tough exoskeletons of crabs and other crustaceans. The fish are thought to develop their poison via this diet.
How do pufferfish mate?
As asexual creatures, a female Pufferfish doesn’t need a male to lay an egg, but it does need a male to fan the egg with its tail until it hatches. Not just any old male will do though, and choosing the right partner revolves around a highly unusual mating ritual, as you might expect from such a beautifuly strange creature.
Mating varies from one species of puffer to the next, but some pufferfish males create displays to attract females. These are large circular structures in the sand of the seabed that could provide a safe place for her to lay her eggs.
How do pufferfish swim?
Pufferfish are poor swimmers, which would make them easy targets if it weren’t for their defence mechanism. Their stomachs enable them to rapidly ingest water and sometimes air too, inflating them to several times their original size.
Can you have a pet pufferfish?
While they can be interesting pets, pufferfish are hard work. At the very least a warm temperature needs to be strictly maintained in the tank. They’re also quite territorial, will nip at the fins of other fish and will even eat smaller species given the chance.