Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stay-Puft Marshmallow Fish

Do you have any idea what's darting beneath the waves when you wade into the ocean? Things that blend in like aquatic ghosts. Things that sting when endangered. Things that blow up 3 times their normal size when alarmed...

I'm taking a Florida Master Naturalist course through the University of Florida extension and program and this morning we went seining on Lover's Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach. The seine is a net stretched between two posts and kept afloat at the top with small orange buoys.
Below - Chris and Jessie pull the seine through the salt water as the tide goes out, collecting whatever may be swimming, floating or crawling in the area. The diversity of critters we captured is impressive. People swim here. People play here. And fantastic animals live here.

The first species in a series of critters caught (and released) that I will post is the Puffer Fish. When alarmed, endangered and/or threatened by consumption, the Puffer will inflate itself, in turn alarming predators and suggesting that they may not make a great meal.
Below - the Puffer floats in a collection bin. It's about six inches long.
When our instructor inadvertently tickled the fish's peduncle (tail fin), it quickly inflated and remained that way for several minutes. Below - the fish bobs upside down.
When under water they fill their elastic stomach with water. When brought above the waves they can fill with air like the one pictured. You wouldn't want to eat one anyway. Some Puffer species can produce a neurotoxin that is poisonous to predators and humans.
Notice the eye? Click the photo to enlarge it. They can change the color and intensity of their eyes when necessary.
Beautiful fish under the sea - and you probably didn't know they were there.


  1. This takes me back to field trips wading around in the bay with Mr. Malinski all those years ago.

  2. Wow! I am impressed with your knowledge and photography skills.

  3. That's cool. I didn't know they were in Florida. They have very special chefs in Japan that slice these fish up so people can eat the non-deadly parts of them, but if they mess it up, I believe the meal is free!

  4. wow, ... and what happens if you want to put the fish back to the ocean, if its full w air, will it float? did u return it?
    very cool fish, miss you baby. (Ma.le)

  5. Joy - i learned most of that from the class yesterday. I don't know if that Puffer was poisonous....

    MaLe - If you hold the fish by its tail and pull it under the water - the air will come out of the stomach through the mouth. I think he way have deflated on his own before it came to that.

  6. Here is a link on the Southern Puffer (I am not sure if it is the same species but it talks about others too). Apparently it wasn't poisonous, or at least not in the way that the Japanese fish is but now it is making people sick. . . interesting.

  7. Does it smell like burnt dog hair if you were to pop it? Sorry, Venkman.

  8. I guess I asked for that (ghostbusters reference)