You might get more than you bargained for if you disturb this fish….
The porcupine fish is part of the family Diodontidae, but is not related directly to the puffer fish as commonly quoted. They do, however, share the ability to inflate themselves to over twice their normal size. But back to that little trick in a minute…
Found in the shallows, basking in the warm water of which ever tropical sea they find themselves in, they are solitary creatures, normally hiding in the crevices of the reef or, more rarely, out in the open. They will always remain close to the bottom of whichever body of water they are hanging out in, but as youngsters, until they reach 8cm in length, they are palegic (mid water swimmers). Adults can reach 90cm, making them the biggest of the species.
The spines make them easily identifiable, but they also have a white stomach and grey or yellow body colourations. The mouth is normally seen open hence, combined with their large round eyes, they always look in a state of surprise! The mouth in fact houses a pair of solid ‘plates’, much like a beak, which they use to crack open the shells of their food – snails, urchins and crabs.
So back to the inflation trick. If they feel threatened, these guys can inflate themselves, using air or water. This also makes the normally flush spines stick out, making them seem a lot scarier and bigger than they really are, in the hope of making a predator think twice before attempting to eat them. It also has the bonus of making them really hard to bite (think back to your childhood and the torture that was apple-bobbing!).
As if this was not enough, some parts of the body are poisonous, so the porcupine fish may well have the last laugh if eaten as the toxin is quoted as being 1200 times more potent than cyanide! This is probably why they are rarely caught for human consumption.
Luckily there are very few takers when it comes to buying their dried out skins to use as lampshades, although in the past, during wartimes, some Pacific islanders did use dried skins as helmets !Share