Naked Puffer, Sphoeroides lispus
The Naked Puffer, Sphoeroides lispus, whose common Spanish name is botete liso, 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, thirteen of which are found in Mexican waters, eight in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.
The Naked Puffers have moderately elongated oblong bodies that are inflatable. They are light brown to gray in color transitioning to off-white ventrally. The iris of their eyes is orange. They have one prominent bar between the eyes on their back and three indistinct bars behind their pectoral fins, under their dorsal fin, and on their tail base. Their body is covered with small white dots and streaks and their caudal fin has a very dark outer half with a white margin. Their head is relatively long and slender with a wide flat section between the eyes. Their eyes are set high on the sides of the head. They have strong beaks composed of four fused teeth. Their short-based anal fin has 7 or 8 rays and is slightly behind the similarly-shaped dorsal fin toward the rear of the body. Their fins have no spines and their caudal fin has a straight or convex margin. They do not have scales, skin spines, or fleshy skin flaps.
The Naked Puffers are bottom dwellers found in sandy and weedy areas at depths up to 110 feet. They reach a maximum length of 35 cm (14 inches). 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 and poorly studied species with very limited information available about their behavioral patterns, in part because they were only introduced to science in 1996.
In Mexican waters the Naked Puffer are found from Guerrero Negro southward along the central and southwest coast of Baja, along the entire east coast of Baja, and along the west coast of the mainland in the northern half of the Sea of Cortez.
The Naked Puffer is a fairly easy fish to identify due to its coloration and markings but is very similar to the Longnose Puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus (ventral row of black spots).
The Naked Puffers are uncommon and a rare catch via hook and line being collected primarily by deep water shrimp trawls. Note: Like many Puffers, the Naked Puffer is reputed to be highly poisonous, even fatal, if eaten, due to the presence of Tetrodotoxin, which is found in their skin, viscera, and gonads and is believed to protect them from predation.
Naked Puffer, Sphoeroides lispus, Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, March 2015. Length: 15.2 cm (6.0 inches). Photos courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.