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These small to medium-sized fish can range from less than 10 inches to over 36 inches.
Found in all temperate, tropical and subtropical waters. Including areas in North America (Florida to Massachusetts, California to Mexico), South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.
These fish will have a lighter or white belly with light brown to tan background coloration. Some fish will have small black spots to large dark colored patches decorating the body. Within the large mouth are powerful teeth that have formed into a modified beak for crushing food. These animals lack pelvic fins and typical fish scales.
Although well known for their ability to increase their body size by almost 300%, these animals typically have a streamlined body. To puff up their size, fish in the family Diodontidae will inflate their flexible stomach with water or air when at the surface of the water; to deflate; they will expel the water or air through their mouth or gills. Burrfish and porcupinefish are easily recognized by short and long spines that cover the animals’ body. These spines will lie flat against the body, however, when inflated; these spines will protrude directly out to further protect the animal from predators.
Juveniles can be found in the open ocean. As adults, most species will inhabit coral reefs or rocky area as well as grass beds and sandy bottoms. These animals are often found hiding in dark caves or hiding holes.
Hard shelled invertebrate (e.g. snails, clams, sea urchin)
Humans, sharks, wahoo. Juveniles are prey for large pelagic fish such as tuna.
Usually solitary animals, males and females will come together to deeper waters for mating. Spawning will occur in large numbers and fertilized eggs will drift with the ocean currents. Hatching occurs approximately 5 days after fertilization. Once hatched, some species will not be able to eat or see for days and will feed off of reminent yolk. After larva completes development, young will use floating seaweed for protection until they travel to shallower areas and become adults.
Q: How many pufferfish do you have at the aquarium?
A: “We have 15 different puffers here at the aquarium and there are five different types: porcupine puffers, burrfish, stars & stripes puffers, map puffer and a golden puffer."
Q: Why do you train the puffer fish?
A: "We started the porcupine pufferfish training when they first arrived at the aquarium to ensure they were receiving the proper care which included the proper diet in a mixed species exhibit they live in. Training also allows us to enrich and stimulate the pufferfish and their environment."
Q: How do you train pufferfish?
A: “In order to train our puffer fish Milton and Wilbur we started with small approximations to teach them to associate a target with feeds. We started by using the target touching it to their nose and then reinforcing them with food. That food is a positive reinforcement for them that allow them to make this association. As they began to understand the target we were able to move the target further away from them and have them swim to touch the target touch their nose and they would then again receive the food. Now that the target behavior is established with our porcupine puffers, we are able to feed them simultaneously with the rest of the exhibit.”
Q: What do pufferfish eat at the aquarium?
A: “Our puffer fish is fed a mixed diet that includes; fish called capelin, shrimp, clam meat and a gel food that is specially prepared for fish."
Q: "Why do pufferfish puff?"
A: "Puffer fish are very steady swimmers and although are good at navigating through the coral reefs that they inhabit; they tend to be very slow. Therefore, they puff up and inflate as a defense mechanism."
Q: "How do pufferfish puff and deflate?"
A:"Puffer fish gulp in or swallow water when they feel threatened. If they are near the surface or removed from the water, typically by a bird, they can also swallow air. When they feel threatened they will inflate themselves; the puffer fish skin is reinforced with connective tissue called collagen fibers that allow this expansion to occur and they have also lost their pelvic girdle which is a set of bones that extends below the gills into a fish’s abdomen. The absence of this pelvic girdle also allows for more room of expansion. They can up to triple their size which makes it harder for predators to attack. The porcupine puffers in our coral reef exhibit have the added defense of spines that become erect when they inflate and lie flat along their body otherwise. When they deflate, they exhale through their mouth or through their gills."
Q: " Where are the pufferfish at the Aquarium?"
A: "If you want to come down and see our puffer fish, they can be found in three exhibits. We have our Burrfish exhibit, our Coral reef (that houses our porcupine puffers and burrfish), and our Predators of the Reef that houses our map puffer, stars and stripes puffer, and the golden puffer."
Q: "What is your favorite part of working with the pufferfish?"
A: "I like working with the puffer fish because they have a strong personality. Most people don’t think of fish as very personable but they truly are. Puffer fish are the perfect example of a fish that seem happy to see you when you walk in."
Learn all about the wonderful puffers from Mystic Aquarium aquarist, Jill Reeves.
Species of the Month Podcast: Porcupine Fish
Join Mystic Aquarium's Kelly Matis and MaryEllen Mateleska as they discuss the amazing adaptations puffers have for protection.
Kelly and MaryEllen want to hear from you! Send questions, comments and suggestions for future podcast topics to [email protected].
Scientific Name: Family Diodontidae
Size: African penguins range from 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 11 pounds
Range/Distribution: The only penguin to breed in Africa, the African penguin ranges from Namibia to South Africa. Young penguins have been known to migrate north and west along the coastline and are found between Southern Angola, Namibia, and sometimes found off Gabon, Congo, and Mozambique, but generally reside in South Africa.
Appearance: The African penguin has a robust, torpedo-shaped body with black feathers on their back, flippers, and head while white feathers cover their front with the exception of horseshoe-shaped black stripe on the chest. Following the penguin’s first few molts a white stripe will develop around its cheek and throat. These birds have a bare patch above their eyes to assist with regulating their body temperature.
Habitat: When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas.
Prey: African penguins feed on 25 species of fish, such as sardine and anchovy but also prey on squid and krill. A penguin may eat up to one pound of food or up to 14% of their weight.
Predators: African penguins face predation by gulls, feral cats and mongoose while nesting on land, while sharks and fur seals hunt African penguins in the water.
Life Span: The African penguin may live up to late 30 years in an aquarium or zoo but averages of 15-20 years are seen in the wild populations.
Mating Behaviors: There are no set breeding seasons for African penguins, however, most penguin pairs are monogamous and will remain together over several breeding years. The male will prepare a nest by digging a shallow burrow in sand or in brush using guano (penguin waste) and any materials nearby to complete the nest for the female to lay two eggs. Both the male and female share the nesting and chick duties, keeping the young safe from predators and warm temperatures. The chicks will hatch between 38 and 42 days and will leave the nest when they are between 60 to 130 days of age.
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