Monday, August 31, 2009

Proud to be a Puffer

If you have ever been to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher then you have probably seen two large porcupinefish, commonly known as pufferfish that live in our 235,000 gallon Cape Fear Shoals tank. If you were lucky, you may have even caught them smiling at you. Although much smaller in size, the tiny burrfish, another type of puffer, that live in the Buzzard Bay exhibit could melt the toughest man’s heart. Their ability to speed through the exhibit has always been a crowd pleaser.

Although pufferfish may look cute and cuddly, their public enemy number one is other pufferfish. As adults, they can become territorial in an aquarium and in turn attempt to injure others. At the aquarium, staff works hard to keep them all living together and happy. (Only one pufferfish should call a tank home because an aggressive fight may erupt if a second one moves into the neighborhood.) Another interesting fact about this magnificent species is that they are extremely poisonous (only some species are poisonous, see below from Wikipedia)

Some species are poisonous, having a tetrodotoxin in their internal organs, such as the ovaries and liver. This neurotoxin is at least 1200 times more potent than cyanide, but some scientists believe it is produced by several types of bacteria that are somehow obtained from the fish's diet as fish bred in captivity are not poisonous.

A puffer’s body holds a type of toxin called tetrodotoxin, which if eaten can cause paralysis or death. Yet in Asian cultures puffer fish are eaten as a delicacy on a regular basis.

The most unique quality of a puffer is its ability to swell up when scared or threatened. This adaptation is a magnificent sight to see. So, enjoy viewing puffers from afar, at the NC Aquarium.

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