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Developmental Biology of Puffer Fish

Jitendra Kumar, Avantika Pathak2

Department of Fisheries Resources and Management, College of Fisheries, Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University, Mangalore - 575002, India

2Chandra Shekhar Azad University of Agriculture &Technology Kanpur (U.P.)


Tetraodontidae is a family of primarily marine and estuarine fish of the Tetraodontiformes order. The family includes many familiar species, which are variously called pufferfish, puffers, balloonfish, blowfish, bubblefish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, toadies, honey toads, sugar toads, and sea squab.Tetraodontidae - Pufferfish

Scientific classification

















White-spotted puffer, Arothron hispidus

Pufferfish are generally believed to be the second-most poisonous vertebrates in the world, after the golden poison frog. Certain internal organs, such as liver, and sometimes the skin, are highly toxic to most animals when eaten; nevertheless, the meat of some species is considered a delicacy in Japan. When prepared by chefs who know which part is safe to eat and in what quantity. The Tetraodontidae contain at least 120 species of puffers in 19 genera. They are most diverse in the tropics and relatively uncommon in the temperate zone and completely absent from cold waters. They are typically small to medium in size, although a few species can reach lengths of greater than 100 centimetres (39 in). This is highly specialized fish having a globular body.Scales are modified to protect the body. The jaws are modified to form a strong leak-like structure for shearing of corals and invertebrates. Puffers are able to move their eyes independently. Many species can change the color or intensity of their patterns in response to environmental changes. Although most puffers are drab, many have bright colors.Pufferfish

Ecology and life history

Although most species live in inshore and estuarinewaters, 29 species spend their entire life cycles in freshwater. The Tetraodontidae contain at least 120 species of puffers in 19 genera. They are most diverse in the tropics and relatively uncommon in the temperate zone and completely absentfrom cold waters. They are typically small to medium in size, although a few species can reach lengths of greater than 100 centimetres (39 in).CrabStarfish

Feeding habits

They are primarily carnivorous and eating mollusks, crustaceans, small snails, invertebrates, some small fish. In captivity it will eat some commercial fish food. They eat corals, sponges, sea urchins and other echinoderms. Puffer fish crush and grind up their prey with their heavy, fused teeth. Puffer fish feed mainly on the mussels and shellfish that inhabit coral reefs, cracking them open with their sharp beaks.JellyfishOctopus


There are around approximately 100 different varieties of puffer fish and they are found in coral reefs in the India, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Many puffer fish can be found in fresh water as well. Some puffer fish swim to freshwater and some live their entire life in fresh water, without ever going to the sea. Most puffer fish are found in sub-tropical and tropical marine waters along the coast lines.


The puffer fish has a unique reproduction method. The females lay eggs at the shore after the males have pushed them to a certain place. These are spherical in shape and usually float on the surface because of their weight. The babies usually hatch within a week. They have a functional mouthand eyes, and must eat within a few days. The larvae are covered in a shell that breaks within a few days and the larva develops fins, teeth, and all necessary parts. The fry are tiny, but under magnification have a shape that is usually reminiscent of a pufferfish.

Reproduction in freshwater species varies quite a bit. The dwarf puffers court with males following females, possibly displaying the crests and keels unique to this subgroup of species. After the female accepts his advances, she will lead the male into plants, moss or another form of cover, where she can release eggs for fertilization. The male may help her by rubbing against her side. This has been observed in captivity, and they are the only commonly captive-spawned puffer species.Chemical structure of tetrodotoxin (TTX)Reproduction


The liver and ovaries are especially toxic, while skin, muscles, blood and intestines only contain smaller amounts of toxin. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing. In fact, freezing and thawing of the product prior to removal of the toxic organs may result in the migration of toxin into the flesh of the fish. The Second most poisonous vertebrate on earth. Poison = tetrodotoxin= lethal poison = 1200 more deadlier than cyanide, It is possibly that a human can survive to a bite. Otherwise death is possible in 30 minutes.

  • No antidote,Molecular Structure

  • It paralyze muscles => death by asphyxiation (O2)Poison

  • A medical approach is to support the respiratory and circulatory system

All puffers have pointed spines, puffer may find their stomachs full of tetrodotoxin. This neurotoxin is found primarily in the ovaries and liver, although smaller amounts exist in the intestinesand skin, as well as trace amounts in muscle. It does not always have a lethal effect on large predators, such as sharks, but it can kill humans. Not all puffers are necessarily poisonous; Takifugu oblongus, fugu for example, is a fugu puffer that is not poisonous, and toxin level varies wildly even in fish. A puffer's neurotoxin is not necessarily as toxic to other animals as it is to humans, and puffers are eaten routinely by some species of fish, such as lizardfish and tiger sharks. Also, Japanese fish farmers have grown nonpoisonous puffers by controlling their diet.

Where is the poison from?

The poison is located in internal organs: Liver, ovaries, skin, testes, intestines. The poison is made by a toxin located on algae. The puffer fish eat the bacteriaand digest it to make the poison. If the puffer fish is raised in an artificial place it is not poisonous.

Production of non-toxic pufferfish by land culture

Puffer fish Poisoning Symptoms

Symptoms generally occur 10-45 minutes after eating the pufferfish poison and begin with numbness and tingling around the mouth, salivation, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms may progress to paralysis, loss of consciousness, and respiratory failure, and can lead to death.

At present, there is no antidote or specific medication for TTX, and no fundamental treatment besides facilitating elimination of the toxin from the body, and managing the respiratory/circulatory system properly using an artificial respirator. Although a monoclonal anti-TTX antibody has recently been developed (Kawatsu et al., 1997) and utilized as a chemical tool for research, it has little effect in clinical use.

Food poisonings due to animal natural toxins


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