• Fada Vieira Chaib

Why do Pufferfish inflate themselves?


Like most of the fishes they are very vulnerable to predators, and Pufferfish have the disadvantage of being very slow swimmers. If it wasn’t for their ability to change their shape, pufferfish wouldn’t have survived for very long.

They puff their bellies by rapidly ingesting water and sometimes air, making their bodies in the shape of an inflatable ball, while still being able to breathe properly. They do this when they feel harm and when a predator grabs them, making it easier for them to escape their death.

(video of a puffer fish deflate: https://www.facebook.com/LADbible/videos/260754464829977/ )

But don’t you think this is the pufferfish only ability, it has a card up the sleeve. If a predator is faster, and gets to eat our fellow inflatable ball, it will most likely die from it’s lethal toxin. A toxin that can kill up to 30 adult humans, the tetrodotoxin. In this quote from the government central for disease control and prevention is a simple explanation on what the toxin does, “The Tetrodotoxin interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles and causes an increasing paralysis of the muscles of the body. Tetrodotoxin poisoning can be fatal.”

More facts about Pufferfish:

There are 120 species of Pufferfish, some of them have spines on their skins, they have different colors (some colors to warn others around them about their toxin and others have colors to blend in with the surroundings), and sizes, but all have the same toxin, their unique puff ability, and also they all have only 4 teeth. They can be found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and freshwater. Pufferfish are considered to have a stable population, but they are still vulnerable to pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing, like most of the sea life. Their diet includes invertebrates and algae, but the larger pufferfish can eat clams, mussels, and shellfish.


Some of their predators include humans (of course), sharks, and sea snakes. They don't have many natural predators because most animals don't survive when they eat a pufferfish. Dolphins don’t eat them but they do use them as toys and some may believe they also use them to get high, as it says on one Smithsonian magazine article, “ Footage from a new BBC documentary series, [...] reveals what appears to be dolphins getting high off of pufferfish. Pufferfish produce a potent defensive chemical, which they eject when threatened. [...] the toxin seems to induce "a trance-like state" in dolphins that come into contact with it,...”


Fonte: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/facts/pufferfish

& https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/emergencyresponsecard_29750019.html#:~:text=Tetrodotoxin%20interferes%20with%20the%20transmission,Tetrodotoxin%20poisoning%20can%20be%20fatal. & https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dolphins-seem-to-use-toxic-pufferfish-to-get-high-180948219/#:~:text=Now%2C%20dolphins%20may%20join%20that,which%20they%20eject%20when%20threatened.

Pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/science/grrlscientist/2014/dec/04/do-pufferfishes-hold-their-breath-when-inflated & https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/dolphins-high-puffer-fish-nature-show/story?id=21385692


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