The boxfish – Ostraciidae, as it is referred to in scientific circles – is a bony fish that has been extensively compared to filefish and pufferfish. Being quite a small family, compared to similar species, Ostraciidae include 6 genera divided into 23 species known today. Known for their intricate shapes and patterns and being remarkably colorful and beautiful fish, the boxfish is definitely not your ordinary reef species. Like puffers, they feature powerful toxins serving as defenses, and they are also quite solitary, only mating in smaller groups during specific times of the year.
On the Appearance of Boxfish – Ostraciidae Physical Traits
Members of the Ostraciidae family are distinguished particularly by their characteristic hexagonal plate-like scales that form a hardened carapace to protect themselves from predators. Also, they have beautiful honeycomb patterns on their skins that place them among the most beautiful and colorful species of reef fish in the ocean. Due to the carapace – which is just as heavy as it is resilient – these fish are generally limited in their movement, and can become easy targets for a number of fast predators. The crafty boxfish, however, has a powerful defense mechanism that can act as a powerful protective measure against predators.
Where Can You Spot the Boxfish Most Easily?
When it comes to boxfish, Ostraciidae species are known to appear near coastal areas located at latitudes that are generally closer to warmer tropical regions. In places like Florida, they can be seen as far north as Cape Cod, while some boxfish species may also be located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, usually at middle latitudes. In the warmest of waters, the boxfish can thrive and grow to a size of more than 20 inches. The more you travel north, however, the smaller the specimens.
Ostraciidae as a Highly Defensive Fish
Even though, like pufferfish, boxfish aren’t able to swim too fast, they are definitely not helpless. These fish have a potent weapon they can use against most predators while under stress. Their skin is able to secrete catonic surfactants that are quickly released and act similarly to the saponins found in echinoderms. As soon as the toxin is released it dissolves into the surrounding space and can adversely affect any of the fish in the surrounding area while the boxfish flees to safety. In understanding boxfish, Ostraciidae experts urge divers and tourists to be cautious when swimming in the vicinity of these fish because of their powerful toxic defenses.