Puffer Fish

Puffer Fish Facts and Species Information

Taxonomy [Blowfish] [Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Actinopterygii] [Family: Tetraodontidae]

The Puffer fish gets its name from its defensive response – puffing itself up to around two to three times its normal size when scared.

They do this by sucking in huge amounts of water, which temporarily increases their size.

The balloon-like sphere is created to protect the Puffer from unwelcome ‘guests’ by way of predators!

They are not aggressive fish, and tend to be spotted during dives, for their comical swimming actions and large eyes that can move independently of each other.

There are more than a hundred species of Puffer Fish, and many of them blend into to their surroundings by adapting their color and skin patterns.

The Blowfish Puffer

Puffer Fish are mainly found in tropical areas, but there are some species that live in cool water environments – and rivers.

Puffer Fish Facts and Species InformationScuba divers generally categorize Puffers into two main types.

The common puffer which are kept in fish tanks and public aquariums and adorn popular dive locations around the world, and the Porcupine Fish (Puffer) – which has sharp spines that protrude upon inflating itself.

Puffer Fish are considered by some to be a delicacy.

However, caution should be exercised, as their flesh has toxins which can be harmful – lethal even – to humans.

Pufferfish Poison Effects on Humans

Tetrodotoxin is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the nervous system in humans. There are several fish species that contain this lethal poison, including:

  • Balloon fish
  • Blowfish
  • Globefish
  • Porcupine fish
  • Pufferfish
  • Swellfish
  • Toadfish

In fact, marine biologists consider tetrodotoxin as being stronger than cyanide and one of the most toxic substances found in nature.

Yet, some people eat pufferfish "intentionally" (e.g. an Asian delicacy served in sushi and sashimi). Hence, it's important that the chef has the necessary training to cut the meat in a safe manner.

Puffer Fish Poisoning Symptoms

Typical symptoms of pufferfish poison are similar to paralytic shellfish poisoning. In general, manifestations appear within ten (10) to forty five (45) minutes after eating puffer fish meat, and include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling around the mouth
  • Salivation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory failure (including death)

Puffer Fish Poisoning Treatment

  • Induce vomiting within the first three (3) hours if the victim is conscious and alert. Turn the person onto their side if they start to vomit.
  • Artificial respirations may keep a paralysed victim alive until they can receive emergency medical attention at a hospital.

Important: As with all injuries that affect scuba divers and snorkelers, you should seek medical treatment without delay.

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