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Six things you didn’t know about the poisonous puffer fish

The Kpando Municipal Assembly has placed a temporary ban on the sale of puffer fish in the Volta Region after its consumption claimed the lives of five people and about 26 on admission at various health facilities in the Region.

Following this development it has become clear that many Ghanaians seem ignorant about the deadly fish.

As such here are some facts you need to know about the deadly fish.

About puffer fish

Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “infectability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.

Toxicity

Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

As Food

Amazingly, the meat of some pufferfish is considered a delicacy. Called fugu in Japan, it is extremely expensive and only prepared by trained, licensed chefs who know that one bad cut means almost certain death for a customer. In fact, many such deaths occur annually.

Population

There are more than 120 species of pufferfish worldwide. Most are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and even fresh water. They have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colors to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic coloring to blend in with their environment.

They range in size from the 1-inch-long dwarf or pygmy puffer to the freshwater giant puffer, which can grow to more than 2 feet in length. They are scaleless fish and usually have rough to spiky skin. All have four teeth that are fused together into a beak-like form.

Diet

The diet of the pufferfish includes mostly invertebrates and algae. Large specimens will even crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks. Poisonous puffers are believed to synthesize their deadly toxin from the bacteria in the animals they eat.

Threats to Survival

Some species of pufferfish are considered vulnerable due to pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing, but most populations are considered stable.

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