Weird Gramma
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Japanese fugu puffers for sale in Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market
Photo by: Chris 73/Wikipedia
Face to face with a Hawaiian puffer.
Photo by: Mila Zinkova/Wikipedia

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Howdy, Weird Gramma here with “WeirdFins,” all about strange stuff in the sea, and brought to you by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. My friend Ariel in Wheaton, Maryland, likes cute fish, but here’s a cutie that’s more poisonous than a rattlesnake. It’s a kind of puffer called the balloonfish, also called blowfish and globefish. Some balloonfish are among the most poisonous animals on earth, and one of the most deadly kind has enough toxin to kill 30 adult humans! Puffers don’t poison people from bites, though, like rattlesnakes, because the toxin is in the innards, so it’s eating puffers that can be dangerous.

Chefs in Japan, Korea, and Thailand are real careful while they’re preparing puffer meat—called fugu—but tiny bits of the poison sometimes end up in a plate of puffer and kill the customer who paid $200 for it! But folks still eat them, sometimes just for the adventure of tempting death. And sometimes, that’s what they get. In some years, more than 50 people die in Japan from eating fugu. Not smart: even the ancient Egyptians knew 4,000 years ago not to eat puffers! But puffer poisoning has happened even in America, where the little fish are called sea squab, or chicken of the sea. So in certain nearshore waters of Florida where some puffers are known to be poisonous, commercial fishermen aren’t allowed to sell them.

There are more than a hundred kinds of puffers in the world, and most are pretty cute, especially when they inflate with water or air to make themselves look bigger than a fish eyeing them for lunch. A predator may also remember that a previously eaten puffer gave it a pretty bad bellyache, and leave other puffers alone.

Check out the puffers on the National Marine Fisheries Service WeirdFins link at

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