The Puffer Family – Tetradontidae
The fish of the Puffer or Tetraodontidae Family are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as botetes. There are a total of one hundred eighty-four global species, which are mostly found in marine environments. The Puffers are small to medium-sized fish (normally less than 12 inches in length) and have heavy, thick, and inflatable bodies. They have large blunt heads with eyes high on the sides of their head and four large fused teeth. Their bodies are covered with small spines. They have the ability to blow themselves up like balloons by swallowing water as a defense mechanism. Their anal fin and single dorsal fin are small, of similar size and shape, and are found at the rear of their body. Their caudal fin can be concave, blunt or convex. They do not have pelvic fins or scales. Puffers are found primarily over sand bottoms. They are omnivores consuming a wide variety of species including algae, corals, crabs, mollusks, sponges, starfish, urchins, and worms. Most Puffers contain the potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, which is found in their skin, viscera, and gonads and protects them from predators.
Several species of Puffers are used to prepare fugu from live fish which is served as sashimi, for about $50 (US) a serving. Fugu has become one of the most celebrated and notorious dishes in Japanese cuisine. It has been eaten by the Japanese for centuries dating back to at least 1603 and by the Chinese dating to 400 BC. Due to the presence of tetrodotoxin, a strong sodium channel blocker which causes death in humans via asphyxiation, consumption is a form of Russian roulette, with a skillful chef needed to prepare the fish properly. A few species of “safe” Puffers (non-tetrodotoxin containing) are currently being raised in Japan via aquaculture to provide a source of consumable fugu.
A humorous short story tells of three men who prepared a fugu stew but were unsure whether it was safe to eat. To test the stew, they gave some to a beggar. When it did not seem to do him any harm, they ate the stew. Later, they met the beggar again and were delighted to see that he was still in good health. After that encounter, the beggar, who had hidden the stew instead of eating it, knew that it was safe and he could eat it.
Mexican fishermen view Puffers as a nuisance fish that is most definitely a “catch and release”. Bodies of preserved Puffers can be used to make lanterns and decorative hangings. Puffer skin has also been used to make wallets and waterproof boxes.
Twenty Puffers reside in Mexican oceanic waters and nine are included in this website.
Bandtail Puffer, Sphoeroides spengleri
Bullseye Puffer, Sphoeroides annulatus
Guineafowl Puffer, Arotron meleagris
Longnose Puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus
Naked Puffer, Sphoeroides lispus
Oceanic Puffer, Lagocephalus lagocephalus
Peruvian Puffer, Sphoeroides sechurae
Sharpnose Pufferfish, Canthiagaster rostrata
Southern Puffer, Sphoeroides nephelus
Spotted Sharpnose Puffer, Canthigaster punctatissima
Stripebelly Puffer, Arothron hispidus