Stripebelly Puffer, Arothron hispidus
The Stripebelly Puffer, Arothron hispidus, whose common Spanish name is botete panza rayada, and known locally as botete, is a species in the Puffer or Tetradontidae Family, known collectively as botetes in Mexico. Globally, there are thirteen species in the genus Arothron, two of which are found in Mexican waters, both in the Pacific.
The Stripebelly Puffers have heavy rounded bodies. They have a gray-brown coloration with small white spots on their back shading to white below with dark curved stripes along their belly. They have large heads with blunt short snouts and heavily beaked jaws. Their anal and dorsal fins are small and similarly shaped, have short bases, and are found well back on their body. Their caudal base is as long as it is deep and their caudal fin is rounded. Their pectoral fin base and gill openings are circled by alternating narrow white and black bands. They are scaleless.
The Stripebelly Puffers are found in and around rocky coral reefs adjacent to sandy bottoms at depths up to 400 feet. They reach a maximum length of 52 cm (20 inches). They 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 and very limited information is available about their behavioral patterns.
The Stripebelly Puffer are widely distributed and are found both in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In Mexican waters they are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the northern portions of the Sea of Cortez.
The Stripebelly Puffer is not easily confused with other species due to its coloration.
The Stripebelly Puffers are very rare and normally not accessible via hook and line and are taken primarily as a by-catch by deepwater shrimp trawlers. They are not deemed to be a viable food fish but are sold commercially in the aquarium trade.
Note: Like many Puffers, the Stripebelly 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 by larger fish.
Stripebelly Puffer, Arothron hispidus, juvenile. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, September 2012. Length: 11.0 cm (4.3 inches). Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.
Stripebelly Puffer, Arothron hispidus. Underwater photo taken in coastal waters off Kailua-Kona, HI, July 2014. Length: 31 cm (12 inches). Photo courtesy of Bob Hillis, Ivins, UT.
Stripebelly Puffer, Arothron hispidus. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, September 2012. Length: 40 cm (16 inches). Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.