Spotted pufferfish

A spotted pufferfish in the waters off the Big Island of HawaiiA spotted pufferfish in the waters off the Big Island of Hawaii

Spotted pufferfish can come in a variety of colors, but around here they’re mostly black or brown with white spots. Their defensive strategy is to inflate into a ball when threatened, thus making it very difficult for a predator to make a meal of them.

Actually, they’re probably doing the predators a favor since pufferfish are extremely toxic. Even very small amounts of the toxins in pufferfish can kill a human. Not surprising then that it’s illegal to serve pufferfish commercially in Hawaii, though it’s considered a delicacy in Japan. There, “fugu chefs” are licensed by the government. The properly-prepared flesh still contains trace amounts of toxins that are supposed to give the diner a warm glow. Goodness only knows what kind of liability insurance a fugu restaurant has to carry.

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