Sea Animals

The Puffer Fish…Uh…No Thank You!

As I wrote in a different blog, our family enjoyed having a salt water fish tank for about 9 years. It was fascinating, and as a home school mom, I felt like part of my science requirement was simply teaching the kids how to make the marine ecosystem work well enough for the sea creatures to thrive. And sea creatures are a lot more complicated than other fish, as exemplified in Henry the 8th, our goldfish who lived over 5 years with so little attention.

But when we would visit the marine fish store, there were pufferfishes for sale. “Ooooooh let’s get one of those,” one of the kids would inevitably say. Then the store clerk would warn that they are poisonous and need special care and know-how. There are many varieties of pufferfish and some are not poisonous, but this was the kind that definitely is. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more regulations about selling pufferfish to the general public nowadays than there were back then!

Because to say they are poisinous is an understatement. In fact this fascinating, and even at times benign-looking creature is often lethal to other fish, and for humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

Here are some Interesting facts about pufferfish:

(Most of these facts taken from IPfactly 2015)

*There are over a hundred species of pufferfish.

*Pufferfish are known by other names, such as puffers, balloonfish, blowfish, globefish and toadfish. They are not to be confused with the porcupinefish, which belong to a different family.

*Pufferfish share two traits with chameleons. They can change color, turning lighter or darker in response to their environment, and they can move their eyes independently, meaning they can move their right eye in one direction and their left eye in another so that they are looking at two different things at the same time. Cool, right?

* Pufferfish belong to the family of fish known as Tetraodontidae. This family name comes from two Greek words – tetra meaning ‘four’ and ‘odous’ meaning ‘tooth’. Yes, they only have four teeth. But with all those spikes (that most of them have), who needs teeth?

*In Japan, pufferfish aren’t pets. They are a delicacy. A dish prepared from pufferfish is called fugu and only chefs who have trained for three years or more can prepare it, since they have to remove the poisonous organs of the fish so that the people who eat the dish won’t die of poisoning. In spite of this, many people have still been poisoned and some have even died. Between 1996 and 2006, 44 fugu poisoning incidents were recorded in Japan.

So overall, I’m glad we said “no thanks” to the opportunity to bring a pufferfish into our home years ago. But I’m also glad that we had the opportunity to see them close-up and personal through the glass at the store. They are truly one of God’s most incredible creations!

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