With regards to pufferfish – Tetraodontidae, as scientists normally refer to them – they have a number of similarities to porcupinefish. Morphologically, they are quite similar, as pufferfish are also able to take in remarkable amounts of water to expand their bodies like a balloon. Also like porcupinefish, pufferfish, or puffers, feed by using their strong, hardened teeth to crush the shells of crustaceans and mollusks – their natural prey. Finally, pufferfish are roughly the same size as porcupinefish and they also use spines and their natural toxins to fend off predators that would normally feed on them.
Varieties of Pufferfish and Where You Can Spot Them
There are just about 120 different species of pufferfish Tetraodontidae researchers currently know about. Most of them are poisonous, in fact researchers consider them among the most dangerous and toxic creatures to inhabit the ocean. You can typically find them in tropical and subtropical warmer waters just about anywhere in the world. However, unlike most tropical fish, pufferfish tend to spread out around temperate regions as well. In some areas, they can even be found in colder waters. Although most of the species are located in the ocean, there are 29 freshwater species of pufferfish as well. Also, some populations are endangered, however most are thriving and considered to be stable.
The Life Cycle of Puffers Under the Spotlight
Most species of pufferfish can grow to medium sizes, ranging from a few inches to 3 feet in length. They are carnivorous, and despite their relatively slow movement they have only a few natural predators. This is particularly due to their additional defenses used to compensate for the fact that they are slow swimmers. Pufferfish have a pelagic reproduction cycle featuring males pushing the females of the species toward the surface, or joining those that are already there. The eggs linger at the surface for about four days before hatching, and juveniles are already quite active as soon as they hatch, having functional eyes and mouths.
The Defensive Abilities of Pufferfish – Tetraodontidae Toxins and Their Dangers
Pufferfish are highly poisonous and their other defenses mainly focuse on their sharp spines that are extended as soon as they take in water and inflate in the presence of predators. If the spines don’t discourage their natural predators from pursuing them, the toxins pufferfish hold in their bodies likely will. Only a few predators, such as tiger sharks, are immune to the destructive properties of the neurotoxins found inside pufferfish livers and ovaries. For divers interested in finding and photographing pufferfish, Tetraodontidae experts usually advise great caution, since the amount of toxin that even a single pufferfish contains is capable of killing more than 30 human adults, and what’s even more daunting is that there is no cure for it.