The incredible, expanding pufferfish
There are about 120 puffer species, all known for their ability to rapidly fill their bellies with water or air, expanding like a balloon to two or three times their normal size. This increase in size to an awkward shape, along with tough, sometimes prickly skin, makes them an unattractive option for potential predators. Keep your eyes open at the Aquarium, and you might see a white-spotted puffer, porcupine puffer or a dogface puffer.
As puffers develop into adulthood, their front teeth fuse together and jut forward, forming a tough, beak-like structure. They use this to crack open the crustaceans and shellfish that form part of their diet.
Stiff and slow
Due to their stiff bodies, puffers can’t wriggle and dart through the water and must use their fins to paddle around. Rather than speed, they rely on the ability to “puff up” as a defense mechanism.
Any predator that does manage to take a bite out of a pufferfish may pay a price. Most puffers produce tetrodotoxin, a poison in their organs and skin that is many times more powerful than cyanide. This toxin tastes bad, and can sicken or kill most predators. Some chefs train for years, learning how to prepare the fish safely for humans, but it’s still a risky meal!