Why do blowfish puff up? According to National Geographic, there are over 120 species of blowfish that live in both salt water and fresh water. They possess a toxin that is deadlier than cyanide; one fish can carry enough toxin to kill 30 adult humans. So why do blowfish need to puff up?
Puff the Magic Blowfish
So there really isn't any true magic involved in the blowfish's inflation process. The ability is part of a sophisticated defensive mechanism that evolved in a fish that is not particularly fast nor agile. While the blowfish cannot flee danger, they can inflate and scare foes away with their size, or perhaps simply make themselves too big for their predator's bite.
The blowfish inflates itself by sucking in water or air. Instead of having scales like most fish, the blowfish has elastic skin which is covered in long spines that stand erect when the fish is inflated. Inflation is a last resort tactic that is very stressful on the blowfish. If you have a pet blowfish, it is not recommended that you encourage him to puff up for the fun of it.
Other Fun Facts
The blowfish is known by several aliases: the pufferfish, globefish, Fugu, balloonfish or the swellfish. AquaticCommunity.com notes that the blowfish belongs to the Tetraodonintae family. In the event that your Latin is a bit rusty, this means that the blowfish has four teeth. Blowfish have teeth? Four of them! Two on the top and two on the bottom, though they are fused together in a beak-like construction. Blowfish also have their eyes set at the top of their heads so that they can bury themselves in the sandy ocean floor to hide from predators. They sure are swell fish.
In Japan and China, the Blowfish is known as Fugu, a deadly delicacy that can take a person's life for the price of a meal. Remember that the fish has that ultra-deadly toxin mentioned earlier; and if the fish's kidneys or ovaries are not removed properly, the poison can taint the fish. There is no antidote for Fugu poison. All the same, Fugu are commercially raised to meet the increasing worldwide demand for this half of a surf & turf special.
The size of a blowfish varies greatly between species. Some are smaller than 1 inch while some fresh water species can grow to nearly 2 feet. All Blowfish swell to nearly double their normal size when frightened.
- Photo Credit Puffer Fish image by Freelance from Fotolia.com