According to the laws of physics they say the bumble bee can not fly…yet it does. When I look at the puffer fish it always reminds me of these strange buzzing bugs. They are cumbersome and move with an endearing awkward wiggle. It is due to this lack of maneuverability that the puffer has developed its unique defense mechanisms. Their highly elastics stomachs allow them to rapidly ingest large quantities of water turning them into an unappetizing ball of three times the size. Some species add spines to the menu (some containing toxins) and others also have poisonous internal organs designed to get the ultimate revenge on those that succeed in eating them! In the toxic species the venom is said to be over 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide, enough to kill over 30 adult humans!

Puffers range in size from 1 inch (the pygmy puffer found only in Indian rivers) right up to 2 feet long. They have 4 teeth; 2 top and 2 bottom with each layer fused together giving the appearance of having a beak. This beak is perfect for their omnivorous diet, allowing them to snap plant leaves and crack open the juicy mollusks they find when foraging along the reef.

When reproducing, the female is guided by the male towards the shore where mummy puffer releases between 3 and 7 eggs which are very light and float on the surface for a week before hatching. Once hatched the babies start to develop fins and a tail, when more developed they loose their buoyancy and sink down to join the other reef dwelling fish.

Like most fish the puffer faces threats from man, most notably in Japan where they are a delicacy called fugu, the chefs are specially trained to remove the most deadly toxins leaving only enough poison to give the diner a pleasant “tingle”. As many deaths occur each year from poor food preparation of these fish, perhaps they are best left on the reef?

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