When you are in danger what do you do? Most species do not blow themselves up when they are in danger. However, the puffer fish is one of the few animals that does blow itself up in self-defense. What other features may this animal hold? What kind of incidents could this animal have caused that can be fatal? Another word for puffer fish is fugu which means ‘river pig’ in Japanese. Learn about the puffer fish in this essay.

The puffer fish is a unique animal. The puffer fish might look like a fish that is easy prey, but when it is startled or needs to defend itself from a predator, it can suck in water and even sometimes air to make itself bigger, blowing itself up. Some puffer fish even inflate spikes. This makes eating the prey difficult for the predator. When the puffer fish is blown up, its control over swimming is increased, but it is significantly slower. Their sizes range from the 1-inch dwarf puffer fish to the freshwater giant puffer fish that can grow up to two feet. Most puffer fish are found in the oceans or deep seas. A weird feature about it is that it has thick and leathery skin. Puffer fish mostly eat invertebrates, like clams, krill, squid, and hard-shelled shrimp and algae.

Puffer fish have a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. When predators eat puffer fish, if they survive, they will find that the neurotoxin makes the puffer fish taste bad; tedrotoxin is sometimes lethal. It has the power to kill twenty grown men. The puffer fish is the second most poisonous animal with the golden poison frog coming in first. It is believed that puffer fish get their tetrodotoxin by eating shellfish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, and up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. Symptoms generally start within ten to forty-five minutes of consumption of fugu. Some dishes of fugu are Fugu no Shirako and fugu shashimi. If symptoms get serious enough, the poisoning can be fatal.  Puffer fish predators like the sea snake and some sharks are unbothered by the tetrodotoxin.  

There have been many incidents of poisoning with puffer fish. Puffer fish is considered one of the most expensive dishes in the world. However, it is also one of the most poisonous. In addition, there is no known antidote. A dish of fugu can cost about fifty dollars. “Statistics from the Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health indicate 20 to 44 incidents of fugu poisoning per year between 1996 and 2006 in Japan (a single incident may involve multiple diners). Each year, these incidents led to between 34 and 64 victims being hospitalized and zero to six deaths, an average fatality rate of 6.8%.” There has even been a recent incident (2011) where a chef served a woman puffer fish liver and she got sick and he was fired.

Puffer fish are amazing animals. From the fact of just being to defend themselves by sucking water into their bodies, to how they have the ability to contain a poison that is some many times more poisonous than cyanide, and even how they range from so many sizes, this amazes me. The incidents of fugu poisoning make it a reason to not mess with the puffer fish. 

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