Blowfish (Biology — poisoning — utilization)

Credit of the photo: Glenda Vélez Calabria (Colombia) Description: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Founder of the site)

This photo was taken in mundo marino and te mostramos lo que pasa en el fondo, Colombia 

Introduction: The blowfish belongs to the “Tetraodontidae” family which includes more than 120 species that occur worldwide. Most of blow fish species are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters. Although this group is primarily marine and estuarine fish, some fish species live in brackish and even freshwater. Other common names include puffers, swellfish, globefish and toadfish. They are typically small to medium in size, although a few species can reach lengths of greater than 100 centimetres. Blow fish live from 5 to 10 years.

Description and distinctive characteristics: As the family name tells, the species is characterized by four “tetra” teeth “dontinidae” which fused together into a prominent beak. The species have hidden spines which become only visible when fish are puffed up. The eyes of blowfish move independently from one another.

Distribution and habitats: The majority of blowfish lives in salt water and prefers warm, tropical seas or estuaries. Some species live in freshwater environments while a few others are suitable for aquariums. While the group is most diverse in the tropics, they are not common in the temperate zone and completely absent from cold waters. Food habits: Blowfish feed on algae, crustaceans, mollusks and red worms. The four large teeth with the hard peak are used for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks.

Reproduction: The spawning of puffers occurs after males slowly push females to the water surface or join females already present. The eggs are spherical and buoyant. Hatching occurs into tiny fry after about four days. As the blowfish fry mature, they move closer to the shore and become adults.

Natural defenses: The puffer’s distinctive natural defenses help make up for the slow swimming of the fish. The ability of the fish for a sudden evasive as well as the excellent eyesight allows fish to maneuver and avoid predators. The pointed spines after fish inflation with water resulted that fish will turn inedible to possible predators.

Poisoning: Puffer fish are considered the second most poisonous vertebrates in the world (after the golden poison frog). The first recorded instance of blowfish poisoning was from Captain James Cook’s 1774 excursion to New Caledonia. It is believed that the toxicity of tetrodotoxin to humans is hundred times more than cyanide with no known cure.

Puffer poisoning usually results from the consumption of incorrectly prepared puffer soup, or from raw meat (sashimi fugu). Because the levels of toxins vary from a specimen to another and from a season to season as well as from a location to another, the effects that results from the consumption of puffers vary from light-headedness up to death passing by numbness of the lips, dizziness, vomiting, rapid heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and muscle paralysis. It may worth noting that this neurotoxin is found primarily in the liver and ovaries, although smaller amounts and traces exist in the intestines and skin, as well in muscle. Interestingly, the poisoning does not always have a lethal effect on large predators, such as sharks, and lizard fish.

Utilization: Regardless the poisoning risk associated with the consumption of blowfish, this does not deter them from being considered a delicacy and expensive sushi dish in Korea and Japan (bok; sashimi fugu). However, only licensed and trained chefs should be the authorized ones to prepare these dishes. However, for various reasons, the poisoning continues to threat the like of people who are not aware about the whole thing or who could not carry out safe preparation for the fish.

References: National geography, Wikipedia


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