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Old 18-05-2003, 05:22 PM
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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Arothron hispidus
DISTRIBUTION: Tropical, sub-tropical seas
HABITAT: Coral reefs, rocky reefs HAZARD: Deadly poisonous to eat
SIZE: 500mm (20in)

REMARKS: A large, conspicuously-marked species, the broad-barred pufferfish has white lines and spots that extend onto the tail, with a black patch and a bright yellow circle around the pectoral fins.

Line caught, netted and trawled across the Indo-Pacific this fish should never be eaten as it contains the deadly tetrodotoxin (as do all puffers, porcupinefish, globefish, toadfish, sharpnose pufferfish, blowfish, boxfish and sunfish).

Death within 6 to 24 hours after ingestion is quite common due to respiratory paralysis. Sometimes the victim may be conscious, yet totally paralysed and unable to move. Various ancient civilisations used this poison to remove enemies and it is thought to be the main ingredient in the creation of the zombie cult in the West Indies.

Most pufferfish infamy is related to their deadly poisonous properties which make them fatal to eat, yet there is another dangerous aspect of puffers and big toadfish - their sharp, powerful, wire-cutting teeth. Many puffers feed on hard-shelled crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms and their parrot-like fused teeth are extremely strong and sharp.

Larger species in Australia have been recorded as shearing off the big toes of people dangling their legs in the water while fishing. Even smaller specimens must be seen as potential threats to divers, or snorkellers whilst feeding fish underwater, and to photographers attempting to demonstrate the fish's defence systems.
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