Shore Buddies Wisdom Wednesday
Puffer fish vary in size from one inch long pygmy puffer, to a two feet long freshwater giant puffer. The main feature, common for all puffer fish, is ability to ingest huge amounts of water, which increases their body size and turns them into odd-looking ball-like creatures. The most elastic part of their body is skin on the stomach area. When puffer fish ingests water, skin on the stomach expands several times of the normal size of the fish. The quick transformation scares predators.
Scientists believe that puffer fish developed this tactic as a method of self-defense because they are poor swimmers that cannot escape from the danger quickly. But, increase of the body size is not the only tactic used against the predators! Almost all species of puffer fish contain a toxin called tetrodotoxin that can be 1200 times stronger than cyanide. For example, one puffer fish contains enough toxins to kill 30 adult men. Toxin is not located in all parts of the puffer fish, and certain cultures prepare puffer fish (meal called fugu in Japan) as a delicacy. Only specially trained chiefs can clean the fish properly and prepare delicious and toxin-free meal. Sharks are the only species immune to the puffer fish toxin. They can eat puffer fish without any negative consequences.
Puffer fish can be discretely or brightly colored. There is often a relationship between the body coloration and the amount of toxin produced by the fish (brighter colors are often associated with large quantity of toxin in the fish). Puffer fish have four teeth that are fused in the beak-like structure. They use their teeth for opening of mussels, clams and shellfish. Puffer fish also eat algae and different types of worms and crustaceans.