We’ve got a new addition to the Two Oceans Aquarium family: Dwarf pufferfish!
In our opinion, the dwarf pufferfish (Torquigener flavimaculosus) is one of the cutest pufferfish species... Its thick, tough skin has a pattern of small brown dots across the upper body that surround irregularly shaped white markings. Along the rear edge of the body are a series of yellowish spots joined by a light brown stripe: An unusual and pretty distinction.
Another striking part of its appearance is the brownish-green ring around the iris of the eye. The dwarf pufferfish can move its eyes independently and has great vision.
The dwarf pufferfish has four teeth that are fused into a beak, giving it a powerful bite and a bit of an underbite… This sturdy beak is used to crush the shells of prey, primarily crustaceans and molluscs.
The dwarf pufferfish inhabits quite an extensive range, from Knysna all the way to Samoa and Japan! They are found on sandy seafloors to a depth of 60 metres (and temporarily in the Diversity Galleryat the Aquarium).
Despite its small size, the dwarf pufferfish packs a punch with many interesting defensive adaptations.
The dwarf pufferfish has a symbiotic relationship with a special bacterium that produces tetrodotoxin, a powerful neurotoxin, within its skin and internal organs. The tetrodotoxin makes the pufferfish poisonous to humans, dogs, cats, and other mammals but not to the species of predatory fish that prey on puffers.
You can guess another of the pufferfish’s defence mechanisms from its name! Pufferfish, known locally as blaasop, are named for their ability to puff up by sucking water or air into a sac connected to the stomach. When threatened, its body blows up into a spherical shape as a defence mechanism. As well as catching potential predators off guard by appearing larger, this mechanism prevents many predators from fitting the pufferfish in their mouths!
Keep an eye out on the sandy floor of the Dwarf Pufferfish Exhibit – these quirky little fish often sleep during the day by burying themselves into the sand with just their eyes exposed! This is an excellent way to avoid predation, as their colouration helps them to camouflage perfectly with the sand.