Driveted by the mysteries of the ocean depths, a person has long sought to get to know its inhabitants better. In the richest water world, which gave birth to all species known to us, one can also meet such an amazing creature as the ball fish, also known as the blowfish, pufferfish or tetraodon.
These amazing fish got their name because of the special structure of their body: at the moment of danger, they inflate like a ball and thus scare away the enemy. Thanks to such a spectacular defense mechanism, tetraodons are known everywhere.
Origin of the species and description
Tetraodon, members of the pufferfish family, were first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. Scientists find it difficult to determine the exact age of the puffer, but they agree that several centuries ago this species separated from another, called the sunfish.
To date, science has more than a hundred varieties of these fish, mainly living in the tropical salt waters of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Some species of ball fish prefer to settle and breed in fresh waters. However, seclusion is necessary for a comfortable habitat for all subspecies of tetraodon: they like to settle among corals or dense vegetation, and often prefer loneliness or life in a small school.
Appearance and features
Due to the wide variety of subspecies, the ball fish can look very different, but has some common interspecific features:
So, it can reach a length of 5 to 67 cm, depending on the environment in which it lives . The color scheme of tetraodon, as a rule, varies from white-brown to green, but the characteristic color of each species — is different, and individuals — individual.
The body of the pufferfish is plump, ovoid, with a large head and wide-set eyes. One of their names — puffer — The ball fish owes its four massive teeth, fused into the upper and lower plates, thanks to which the individual becomes a dangerous predator and is forced to constantly eat coral reefs or inhabitants with chitinous shell.
Puffer — very maneuverable and fast swimmers, which they owe to the location of the pectoral fins. In addition, all subspecies of ballfish have a strong tail fin that allows them to swim even in the opposite direction.
One of the unique features of tetraodon — this is a skin uncharacteristic for a fish, covered with small spikes, and not scales. At the moment of danger, when the fish swells, these spikes provide additional protection — they take a vertical position and do not allow the predator to swallow the pufferfish.
Video: Fish ball
The ballfish's unique defense mechanism that makes it so interesting to humans is its ability to inflate its body. Taking water or air into the sac-like outgrowths, acting as a kind of pump with the gills, the pufferfish is able to increase several times. Due to the absence of ribs, this process is controlled by special muscles, which subsequently help the fish to get rid of the collected liquid or air, releasing them through the mouth and gills.
Interestingly, while taking in air, ball fish do not hold it, but continue to breathe using gills and even skin pores.
The most effective method of protecting the pufferfish is its poisonousness. The skin, muscles and liver of most species are saturated with the deadly poison tetrodotoxin, which, once in the digestive tract, first paralyzes the victim, and then painfully kills. It's amazing that a man chose one of the representatives of the pufferfish — Pufferfish — your delicacy. At least a hundred people die every year as a result of eating it. However, not all tetraodon species are venomous, and some are even safe to keep in a home aquarium.
Where does the shar fish live?
Ubiquitous, tetraodons like to settle in coastal waters, and are rarely found at depth. Most often they can be found in the tropical waters of the Philippines and Indonesia, India and Malaysia. Nearly a third of the pufferfish are fresh water dwellers, including the fahak, which lives predominantly in the course of the Nile River; Mbu, who prefers the waters of the Congo River; and the famous takifugu or brown puffer lives both in the Pacific Ocean and in the fresh waters of China.
Some subspecies lead the following way of life: living in salty waters, during the spawning period or in search of food, they arrive in fresh or brackish sources. Having spread throughout the globe in this way, ball fish feel comfortable in almost any environment inhabited, except for captivity, difficult to breed and requiring careful and special care in aquarium conditions.
What does Shar fish eat?
Pufferfish — confident predators. Completely ignoring algae as a food product, tetraodons are happy to eat foods rich in protein: worms, fish and shellfish fry, snails and shrimp. Voracious by nature, ball fish do not give up their habits either in their natural habitat, not in captivity, they are able to absorb food all the time.
It is interesting that the plates that replace tetraodon teeth grow in them throughout life. Nature knows several examples of such regeneration, and everywhere it is solved in one way: an individual grinds down growing teeth. Puffer for these purposes consumes a large number of crustaceans with a hard shell and gnaws at corals.
Character and Lifestyle Features
The aggressive social behavior of pufferfish has earned them the fame of loners. Often anticipating danger, and having trouble-free defense mechanisms, pufferfish swell up and thereby frighten their enemy. However, the constant use of this skill does not benefit its owners. The breath of an individual during metamorphosis accelerates five times, which indicates an incredible increase in heart rate. Therefore, although constantly ready to attack, the ball fish is prone to a solitary lifestyle.
Ball fish are very fond of defending their territory and do not forgive the encroachments of the enemy, desperately defending themselves. In a fight, pufferfish mutilate and bite the fins of other fish, doing this as part of the struggle for territory, and sometimes out of a sense of rivalry.
Ball fish, regardless of their species, are adherents of the correct daily routine: they wake up with the sunrise, fall asleep at sunset. During the day they lead an active hunting life. This is one of the reasons why those wishing to have a ballfish in a home aquarium are not recommended to settle it in the wrong company. The pufferfish will either eat all the inhabitants, or consider them sources of stress and, due to excessive nervous stress, will quickly die. In captivity, tetraodons live 5-10 years, while in the natural habitat — much longer.
Social structure and reproduction
Due to its isolation, tetraodon rarely forms strong social ties, preferring hermit life to accuracy. The most acceptable social arrangements for pufferfish are small schools or living in pairs. In their youth, representatives of the species are relatively calm, but the older they get, the more their character deteriorates and the more they are prone to aggression.
Representatives of the species are ready to breed at the age of one to three years. During the spawning period, males and females perform the following mating ritual: the male playfully pursues the female, and if she does not agree with his courtship for too long, she may even bite. Males, often brightly colored and smaller, delicately escort the female to a secluded, sheltered spot. There she spawns, and the male immediately fertilizes her. Some puffer species prefer to spawn in upper waters. A single female can lay up to five hundred eggs.
It is noteworthy that the father takes care of the offspring of this species. And already in the second week of life, small tetraodons can swim on their own.
In the first weeks of life, all subspecies of the pufferfish have a small shell, which gradually disappears, and spikes form in its place. The fish-ball quickly forms, and after a month it differs from older individuals only in smaller size and color intensity: in young fish it is much more motley. With the help of bright colors, the younger generation tries to warn of a potential threat and scare predators. In order to protect themselves, young animals also like to hide in safe, hidden places: in thickets or bottom topography.
Young individuals are the most contact. They can safely cohabit with different species without harming anyone. A quarrelsome character begins to appear in pufferfish only with age. Aqua lovers need to know that in captivity, for successful reproduction of the species, it is not recommended to keep more than one male in the aquarium during the spawning period. Due to their aggressive nature, the rivalry quickly turns into a fight, which is sure to end in death for one of the males.
Natural enemies of fish ball
Due to the unique defense mechanism, aggressive nature and craving for a secretive lifestyle, pufferfish have practically no natural enemies. However, they did not escape the fate of being an element of the food chain due to the omnivorous main predator — of a person.
Widely known throughout the world for their poisonous properties, ballfish are one of the main delicacies of Japanese cuisine. Despite the number of deaths that these fish bring to people every year, gourmets continue to consume them.
Up to 60% of people who decide to cook their own puffer fish, a prominent representative of the pufferfish, die from poisoning with its nerve poison.
In Japan, there is a special license issued to chefs who are trained to prepare this deadly dish. As you know, the use of the liver and ovaries of fugu, as containing the most concentrated poison, is prohibited. To date, there is no antidote for the poison, and victims are assisted in maintaining the circulatory and respiratory systems until the effect of the poison weakens.
It is interesting that not all subspecies of ballfish are poisonous , and some are safe to eat!
Population and species status
Today, there are more than a hundred subspecies of ball fish. It is noteworthy that this species has never been subjected to selection, therefore, for all the existing diversity, the pufferfish owes solely to evolution. Here are a number of prominent representatives of the subspecies:
Pygmy Tetraodon — this is the smallest representative of the species, reaching a maximum length of 7 centimeters. Individuals have a bright and intense color, and are also capable of adapting to environmental conditions. So, when immersed in deeper water layers, the coloring of the puffer darkens. Males can be distinguished from females due to the less saturated color of the latter, and small stripes running along their body.
The natural habitat of this species of tetraodon is the fresh waters of Indochina and Malaysia. In addition, it is this species that is most disposed to life in captivity due to its generally friendly nature and appropriate size, as well as the absence of problems with reproduction.
White-dotted Arotron — interesting and bright representative of pufferfish. Living mainly in the coral reefs of the Pacific region, it is also found on the African east coast, and in Japan, and even off Easter Island.
A unique feature of this puffer is its color changing throughout life. so, in youth, the ball fish has a dark brown or black color, diluted with many milky spots. By the middle of life, the body begins to turn yellow, while still being covered with white dots, which completely disappear by the end of life, leaving individuals with a pure golden color.
Although this subspecies lacks pelvic fins unlike its brethren, tetraodons remain nimble and nimble swimmers. Moreover, this quality does not change them even in moments of danger: having puffed up to an ideal spherical shape, they do not lose the ability to swim quickly, so it is not easy for a predator to catch up with them. If this does happen, and the aggressor manages to catch and swallow the puffer, death is almost inevitable.
Surprisingly, the poison of the ballfish is so strong that it can even kill a shark!
Tetraodon fahaka — extremely aggressive and one of the largest species of pufferfish. Found predominantly in African waters, most commonly found in the Nile River. With great difficulty agrees to life in captivity, and does not breed in an aquarium.
In structure, this puffer practically does not differ from other representatives of the species: it is capable of inflating, has no ventral fins and is covered with spikes. Its color varies within the range of brown-yellow-white, and with age its intensity decreases. The body of this pufferfish contains a large amount of poison and contact with it is extremely dangerous, and therefore these individuals are rarely recommended as aquarium inhabitants. You should also refrain from eating fahak.
Tetraodon Mbu — this is the largest subspecies of pufferfish, capable of reaching a length of up to seventy centimeters. Living in the fresh waters of Africa, this puffer is practically invulnerable. Possessing the defense characteristic of the entire species, this subspecies uses it most effectively: a spiked ball, 70 cm in diameter and saturated with tetrodotoxin, rarely attracts even the most desperate predators.
Interestingly, despite the absence of real threats in its natural habitat, tetraodon is extremely aggressive, and in hunting is capable of unjustified cruelty. He does not know how to get along with his neighbors at all and prefers loneliness to social connections.
Takifugu or fugu — the most famous subspecies of ball fish, which, due to its taste, has become one of the most dangerous delicacies in the world. Found in the salty waters of the Pacific Ocean, the fugu species is a significant part of Japanese culinary culture.
The pufferfish is known not to produce poison on its own, but accumulates it throughout its life with the food it consumes. Thus, individuals raised in captivity and not fed a specific bacteria are completely harmless.
Cute and funny in its spherical state, the ball fish is a dangerous predator and a deadly delicacy that is famous and loved in many Asian countries. The species diversity of tetraodon allows you to meet them almost anywhere in the world and observe their beauty and individuality in their natural habitat.