Sharpnose Puffer

Sharpnose Puffer, Canthigaster rostrata

The Sharpnose Puffer, Canthigaster rostrata, whose common Spanish name is tamborín narizón, is a species in the Puffer or Tetraodontidae Family, known collectively as botetes in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Caribbean Sharpnose Puffer. Globally, there are 33 species in the genus Canthigaster, two of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Sharpnose Puffers have robust and slightly compressed bodies with a depth that is 47% to 51% of standard length. They are dark dorsally transitioning to yellowish-brown mid-body and ventrally. They are covered with small blue spots on their mid and lower body and have a series of blue lines radiating from their eyes, strong vertical lines on their caudal fin base, and a single horizontal line on top of their caudal fin base that transitions to spots under their dorsal fin. They have a prominent yellow tail with wide dark borders making them an easy fish to identify. Their head is large and blunt with large elevated eyes, a small mouth equipped with four fused, strong, and powerful teeth, and a long pointed snout. Their anal and dorsal fins are similar in shape and found well back on the body; both are small and have a short base and no spines, with the anal fin having 9 rays and the dorsal fin having 10 or 11 rays. Their caudal fin is rounded or square. They have no pelvic fins. Their back has a distinctive crest between the eyes and dorsal fin. They have short gill openings that end before their pectoral fins. They have no scales and their skin is smooth but tough with a few small spines.

The Sharpnose Puffers are associated with reefs and found in coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass habitats at depths up to 300 feet. They reach a maximum length of 12.0 cm (4.7 inches). They are daytime omnivores consuming algae, crabs, other crustaceans, hydroids, mollusks, polychaete worms, seagrass, sea urchins, sponges, and starfish, and are believed to be important contributors to many food chains. They hide and become less active at night. They are preyed upon by the invasive Red Lionfish, Pterois volitans and the Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda and utilize their ability to inflate their body with water and to release Saxitoxin and Tetrodotoxin as defense mechanisms. They are dimorphic with females and males exhibiting different behaviors. Reproduction is oviparous and occurs in harems of up to six individual females establishing vigorously protected territories in mixed coral and rubble, which are maintained by one dominant male. Eggs are deposited demersal into algal nests. They are fertilized externally and are protected by both parents. They have a lifespan of at least ten years.

In Mexican waters the Sharpnose Puffers are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

Due to its very unique coloration, the Sharpnose Puffer cannot be confused with any other species.

The Sharpnose Puffers are used extensively by the aquarium trade with fish exported from Caribbean waters. They are difficult to catch by hook and line and most fish are caught in nets as by-catch. From a conservation perspective they are considered of Least Concern being widespread and common, however, there are long-term concerns about their survival due to the continual decline in the quality and size of their coastal habitats.

Sharpnose Pufferfish, Canthigaster rostrata. Fish caught from the Hillsboro Inlet, Hillsboro, Florida, April 2011. Length: 7.6 cm (3.0 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Kenneth Tse, Toronto, Canada.