Longnose Puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus
The Longnose Puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus, whose common Spanish name is botete verrugoso, and known locally as botete, is a species in the Puffer or Tetraodontidae Family, known collectively as botetes in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-three species in the genus Sphoeroides, eleven of which are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.
The Longnose Puffers have moderately elongated bodies that are inflatable. They are an olive-brown color with mottling and numerous small light blue spots. Their ventral side is white and unusually flat. They have a horizontal row of short brown bars at the transition between their lower sides and the underside of their body. They have skin flaps on their back with a large black blotch behind each. Their head has a long narrow snout and is concave between their large elevated eyes. Their anal and dorsal fins are small and similarly shaped, have short bases, and are found well back on their body with the anal fin being slightly behind the dorsal fin. Their caudal fin is deeply convex. Their body is covered with small denticles but is without scales.
The Longnose Puffers reside on the bottom and are found in sandy and weedy areas at depths up to 350 feet. They reach a maximum length of 30 cm (12 inches), as documented by a fish that I caught. They are exceedingly well camouflaged and have the ability to blow themselves up like balloons, presumably as a defense mechanism to deter predator attacks. They are a rare poorly studied species and very limited information is available about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters of the Pacific the Longnose Puffer are widely distributed with the exception that they are absent from the extreme northern portions of the Sea of Cortez.
The Longnose Puffer is an easy fish to identify due to its coloration and cannot be confused with any other species. However, it is somewhat similar to the larger, very rare, and recently discovered Naked Puffer, Sphoeroides lispus (smooth spineless skin, three dark bars on the back, small white dots with streaks on the upper body).
The Longnose Puffers are very accessible via hook and line and caught off the bottom in 100-foot water utilizing traditional deep water gear with small hooks tipped with cut squid. They are a “catch and release” that quickly return to the deep. They are most definitely the fish with the greatest personality in the ocean; on several occasions I have seen them sitting in two inches of water on the panga floor processing water which is a true visual phenomena. Note: Like many Puffers, the Longnose Puffer is reputed to be highly poisonous, even fatal, if eaten, due to the presence of the toxin tetrodotoxin, which is found in their skin, viscera, and gonads and is believed to protect them from predation.
Longnose Puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, May 2016. Catch, photos and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto.
Longnose Puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus. Fish caught from shore in Acapulco, Guerrero, February 2017. Length: 22 cm (8.7 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.