Daily Archives: October 12, 2016
iPhoneOgraphy – 12 Oct 2016 (Day 286/366)
The Tetraodontidae are a family of primarily marine and estuarine fish of the order Tetraodontiformes. The family includes many familiar species, which are variously called pufferfish, puffers, balloonfish, blowfish, bubble fish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, toadies, honey toads, sugar toads, and sea squab. They are morphologically similar to the closely related porcupine fish, which have large external spines (unlike the thinner, hidden spines of the Tetraodontidae, which are only visible when the fish has puffed up). The scientific name refers to the four large teeth, fused into an upper and lower plate, which are used for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks, their natural prey.
The majority of pufferfish species are toxic and some are among the most poisonous vertebrates in the world. In certain species, the internal organs, such as liver, and sometimes their skin, contain tetrodotoxin and are highly toxic to most animals when eaten; nevertheless, the meat of some species is considered a delicacy in Japan (as 河豚, pronounced as fugu), Korea (as 복 bok or 복어 bogeo), and China (as 河豚 hétún) when prepared by specially trained chefs who know which part is safe to eat and in what quantity. Other pufferfish species with nontoxic flesh, such as the northern puffer, Sphoeroides maculatus, of Chesapeake Bay, are considered a delicacy elsewhere.
The tetraodontids have been estimated to diverge from diodontids between 89 and 138 million years ago. The four major clades diverged during the Cretaceous between 80 and 101 million years ago. The oldest known pufferfish genus is Eotetraodon, from the Lutetian epoch of Middle Eocene Europe, with fossils found in Monte Bolca and the Caucasus Mountains. The Monte Bolca species, E. pygmaeus, coexisted with several other tetraodontiforms, including an extinct species of diodontid, primitive boxfish (Proaracana and Eolactoria), and other, totally extinct forms, such as Zignoichthys and the spinacanthids. The extinct genus, Archaeotetraodon is known from Miocene-aged fossils from Europe.
Fossil teeth of a possible tetraodontid (referred to as “Pekinosaurus hyperostosis”) have been found in the Triassic Pekin Formation of North Carolina, possibly extending their range.