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Porcupine pufferfish

Scientific name: Diodon holocanthus

Country: Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Sao Tome & Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Taiwan, USA, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam.

Continent: Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America, Central and North America

Diet: Sea urchins, molluscs - molluscivore, crustaceans - crustacivore

Food & feeding: Carnivore

Habitats: Coast, ocean

Conservation status: Not Threatened

Relatives: Cowfish, filefish

Description: The common names of this fish relate to its two main distinguishing features, namely the ability to inflate its body with air or water until it is almost completely spherical, an ability shared by all pufferfish; and also the fact that its body is covered in sharp spines. The combination of these two defence mechanisms means that the Porcupine puffer is very well protected against predators. Any animal that attempts to make a meal of a pufferfish will almost certainly not repeat the mistake! It can reach a size of 90 cm, which is extremely large for a puffer.

Lifestyle: Pufferfish are found throughout the world in tropical waters. They can adapt to a wide variety of habitats, searching at night for prey such as sea urchins, crabs and gastropod molluscs, amongst coral reefs as well as sandy flats, eel grass beds and rocky shorelines.

Family & friends: These fish are solitary feeders, prowling the reef under cover of darkness and hiding away under overhangs and in crevices during the day.

Growing up: Little is known about the spawning habits of this species.Like most pufferfish, this species is poisonous to eat. Their internal organs contain a powerful poison called tetrodotoxin. This poison prevents nerves of any creature that eats the fish from transmitting signals. This then causes paralysis and breathing difficulties. Death can result after only 30 minutes. Amazingly, researchers are currently working on a powerful painkiller based on tetrodotoxin.

Conservation news: In South East Asia, the skin of the porcupine puffer is sold in its fully expanded form as a novelty lamp, with a light bulb placed inside.