JULY 17, 2021
YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
Imagine being able to grow several times your own size when threatened…
That almost sounds like a superhero power, but this week’s guest can do just that!
You’ve likely seen one of these on a certain popular kids cartoon, but entertainment aside, the puffer fish is also a really Wowzerful animal.
Let’s dive in and look at these fascinating finned friends!
If you’ve ever heard of a puffer fish, you probably already know about one of its coolest tricks—the ability to inhale air or water into its elastic stomach until it doubles, or even triples, in size.
But that’s just one of the many amazing things about puffer fish—also known as blowfish, swellfish, globefish, balloonfish, or bubblefish—that separates it from the rest of its fish friends.
According to National Geographic, there are more than 120 species of puffer fish around the world.
While most live in saltwater environments, there are freshwater and brackish puffer fish as well.
Brackish means they live in areas where saltwater and freshwater mix!
Unlike many fish you’ve probably seen, puffer fish do not have scales.
Instead, they’re tough-skinned and many are covered in spines. When they inflate, the smooth spines stand on end.
This makes the puffer fish one tough snack to swallow!
But swallowing a puffer fish should be the least of a predator’s concerns.
They’re loaded with a substance called tetrodotoxin—an ultra deadly neurotoxin.
A single puffer fish contains enough poison to kill up to 30 adult humans!
Despite this, they’re a prized delicacy in many countries.
In fact, chefs train for years to learn how to prepare the fish perfectly in order to avoid the toxins.
Puffer fish have hard teeth that act like a beak, making it easy for them to chow down on small invertebrates and algae.
Larger puffer fish—which can reach nearly a meter (3 feet) long, are even known to crack the shells of clams, mussels, and other shellfish when they want a tasty treat.
While they aren’t the fastest fish around, they’re a great example of how special adaptations can help animals find a niche in their ecosystem and thrive.
In fact, apart from pollution in some of their native breeding grounds, puffer fish populations are considered stable.
If you encounter one of these fish at the beach, it’s probably best to leave it alone.
However, they are popular guests at many zoos and aquariums around the world if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of one up close!
While many predators steer clear of puffer fish, most species of shark are immune to their toxin!
Puffer fish don’t have eyelids. To close their eyes, they draw them deep into their eye sockets. What a weird but cool talent!
Male puffer fish make intricate nests on the ocean’s sandy floor which feature beautiful grooves and spirals. They’re truly a work of art!
Puffer fish teeth never stop growing. As a result, chewing on crunchy snacks from time to time is a necessary habit which helps keep them trimmed down.
Some cool stuff from around the web we think you and your kids will enjoy.
Dig deeper than the standard five senses with this look at ancestral and weird senses from Crash Course!
Crash Course | YouTube
Out Of This World Photos!
Check out the first new pictures in over 20 years of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon,
Cicadas Up Close And Personal
Experience the emergence of the Brood X cicadas—an event 17 years in the making—with these amazing photos and videos from Audubon.
Deflecting Asteroids with HERA
This awesome animated short from the ESA shows how we’ll be using robots to learn more about asteroids—and even try to move one!
European Space Agency | YouTube
— Steve Irwin
What’s the difference between a piano and a fish?
You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish!
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Today’s email was written by Joshua J. with contributions by Geoff W. and Branden S.
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