Why do pufferfish "puff up"?

pufferfish at the Seattle Aquarium

Pufferfish will “puff up” as a defense mechanism if they are threatened. A shape that is more than double its original size, round and sometimes covered in spines is much more difficult to bite and isn’t very appetizing to a predator. However, just as people should stretch before exercising to avoid injuring themselves, puffers need to stretch out their muscles as well. Inflating yourself full of water so that your skin is stretched tight can be very painful, especially if your muscles aren’t used to it. Even though they sometimes do it just to stretch, puffing up often can be stressful for a puffer. So, it’s best if they do it only when they need to. This behavior isn’t a puffer’s only means of defense. Most puffers are toxic to eat. Their internal organs produce a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin (they’re part of a family of fish known as Tetraodontiformes, which includes triggerfish, boxfish and several other species). This neurotoxin, which has no antidote, can cause paralysis, seizures and even death and is another reason why puffers don’t make good meals.

Here is a great video of a pufferfish displaying its “puff up” defense mechanism in the Pacific Coral Reef exhibit at the Aquarium.

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7 Responses to Why do pufferfish "puff up"?

  1. Ryan Olsen says:

    The puffer fish is a very interesting fish i love them to death. I actually have one of my own you can check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5obuGcTpts let me know what you think thanks.

  2. Mary Prendergast says:

    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would certainly benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Regards!

  3. Jamie Rosenstein says:

    Awesome video! Puffer fish are so interesting. Is there any way I can subscribe to get updates on new articles and info. Thanks!

    Jamie

  4. Erik Johannessen says:

    So I saw this video of a person that took a puffer fish out of the water, and it inflated itself with air and became a big balloon. So in the water, they are actually filling themselves up with water?

  5. kimberly says:

    I have heard a rumor that puffer fish only have a certain number of puffs until they die, is this true.

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