Pufferfish (Tetraodontidae) include more than 120 species of worldwide, though some are currently endangered due to overfishing, habitat loss and pollution. Most live in the sea, but some species live in fresh or brackish water. They are called “puffer fish,” because they take in water to puff to twice their original size when threatened. They have spines, rather than scales, which become very pronounced when they are expanded. During puffing their organs get pushed to one side and flattened which can kill them. Agitating or frightening a puffer is a seriously dick move.
Puffer fish are considered the second most toxic animal on earth, after the Columbian Poison Golden Frog. Most contain tetrodotoxin, a toxin 1,200 times more lethal than cyanide, enough to kill around 30 humans if ingested.
Consumption of puffer fish is obviously foolish. However, they are considered a delicacy in some parts of Asia, most notoriously, Japan, where chefs receive extensive training on how to remove the toxic portion of the fish before they can obtain the license required to serve “fugu,” which is eaten raw or in a soup. We photographed this White-spotted puffer (Arothron hispidus) while diving Apo Island, Philippines. Read more in our post, Pristine Reefs and Macro Critters: Scuba Diving Apo Island, Dauin, and Zamboanguita, Philippines.