Blowfish, also known as porcupinefish – Iondontidae, by their scientific name – are colorful fish that can grow up to 3 feet long. At first glance, they don’t seem too threatening or special. Their slightly elongated bodies feature a curious texture that actually hides a dangerous secret. Unlike most fish you’ll see swimming around the reef, blowfish have developed their scales to act as long spines that, once the fish gulps down enough water, extend to give the fish rounded shape, just like the needles of a porcupine.
Porcupinefish “puff up” as a defense mechanism to ward off dangerous predators. Combined with their sharp spines, this technique is made extremely effective by the fact that the blowfish is able to swallow a significant amount of water in a very short amount of time. Inflating like a balloon, it can often double or even triple in size, larger species of Iondontidae are even recognized as dangerous when being approached by humans. Although they don’t look very threatening, nor swim very fast, blowfish can use this distinctive defense mechanism quite effectively against most of their predators. Since some species are also extremely poisonous – their livers containing a neurotoxin far more dangerous than cyanide – blowfish only have a few well-known predators, including sharks and killer whales.
In the case of porcupinefish, Iondontidae experts can usually tell you that there are many quirks and unique characteristics worth mentioning. For instance, ever since Darwin studied these creatures on his journey around the world, he pointed out that they can swim quite well even while inflated. Also, researchers have discovered that blowfish are amazingly resilient. Despite being swallowed completely by sharks, they were observed to not only survive in the predator’s stomach, but even eat their way out to freedom.
Porcupinefish are found in most of the warmer tropical regions of the world’s oceans, and they rarely stray from the surface. Most of the time, they can be spotted at depths ranging from 5 to 167 feet, either resting on coral reefs or engaging in short distance swims in the open ocean. The fish have an interesting pelaging spawning ritual that has them mating in areas where the currents can take their eggs out into the open ocean. From there, the larvae swim into the epipelagic zone after hatching, then finally travel to nearby coral reefs once they reach maturity. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the feeding habits of porcupinefish, Iondontidae researchers affirm, generally includes hard-shelled snails, sea urchins, and crabs, seeing as blowfish are easily able to crush their shells with their strong, beak-like jaws.