Bulletin 26 - July 1985: Puffer Fish -- Aronthron Hispidus

Puffer Fish -- Aronthron Hispidus

by Ihsan Nahas

From the family Tetraodontidae, the puffer fish is common in both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Its range extends from the Gulf region as far as northern Australia and the Fiji Islands, and it is occasionally found in brackish or even fresh water.

The puffer fish is shaped like an elongated oval club, and there are a pair of nasal tentacles between the eyes and the tip of the snout. The skin is scaleless but lined with small bony plates, often with small spines. The teeth are fused and form a beaklike structure with a split at the centre of each jaw. The largest specimens grow to about 90 cm but in UAE waters they are seldom over 40 cm long. There are 10 or 11 dorsal and the same number of anal rays. Colouring is generally greyish brown with a few lighter markings. The base of the pectoral fins is distinguished by a black spot surrounded by smaller dark yellow spots along the sides. Around the UAE the species tends to be greyish brown along the back and abdomen, with the head, fins and the whole body apart from the abdomen covered with dark brown spots. This may be an adaptation to the local environment.

The species is noted for its ability when disturbed to inflate itself with water so much that it resembles a large balloon, almost globular in form.

It prefers an ambient temperature of 24 -- 28C, and well-illuminated water. It is therefore well-suited to the shallow, bright depths of the Arabian Gulf, where it may be found on sand, or more usually among rocks, stones and corals where it can feel secure. With its sharp teeth it is adept at chiselling off pieces of coral which form part of its diet. The puffer fish is mostly peacable but not very sociable; it is rare to see them more than one at a time, and then only in pairs. The flesh is poisonous, with a concentration of tetraodontoxin in the internal organs, though it is cooked as a delicacy in Japan after careful cleaning. It is not offered for sale in fish souks in the Gulf, and presumably any caught by commercial fishermen are thrown away.


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