Peruvian Puffer, Sphoeroides sechurae
The Peruvian Puffer, Sphoeroides sechurae, whose common Spanish name is botete peruano, is a member of 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 Peruvian Puffers have thick oblong inflatable bodies. They are dark olive brown dorsally and transition to off-white ventrally. They have dark spots above their eyes and scattered along their flank behind their pectoral fins. They have indistinct pale lines: one located between the front borders of their eyes, another between the rear borders of their eyes, and a third one angling down along their back above their pectoral fins and joining a short line from the dorsal origin. They have an indistinct pale oval on the center of their back. Their anal and pectoral fins are transparent with a narrow dark bar at their base. The inner third of their caudal fin is olive brown and the outer two-thirds is black with a clear margin. Their dorsal fin has a dark base. Their head is relatively long and slender with a wide flat section between the eyes, which are set high on the sides of the head. They have strong beaks composed of four fused teeth. Their anal fin has a short base and seven or eight rays; it is slightly behind the similarly shaped dorsal fin found toward the rear of the body. Their caudal fin is straight or convex. Their fins have no spines. They have no scales but are covered with spines and lack skin flaps.
The Peruvian Puffers are found over sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 385 feet. They reach a maximum length of 17.0 cm (6.7 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 an exceeding rare poorly studied species and very limited is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Peruvian Puffer are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the entire west coast of Baja.
The Peruvian Puffer is easily confused with the Longnose Puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus (small light blue spots on head without prominent barring) and the Naked Puffer, Sphoeroides lispus (no spotting on sides).
The Peruvian Puffers are uncommon and a rare catch via hook and line. They are collected primarily by deep water shrimp trawls. Note: Like many Puffers, the Peruvian Puffer is reputed to be highly poisonous, even fatal, if eaten, due to the presence of tetrodotoxin toxin, which is found in their skin, viscera, and gonads and is believed to protect them from predation.
Peruvian Puffer, Sphoeroides sechurae. Fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, October 2015. Length: 15 cm (5.9 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.