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Pufferfish Goes Viral After Video Corrects Misconceptions About How They Inflate

Via IFLScience

If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen a video of a pufferfish deflating. For several reasons, the footage has gone viral. This is because the process is really, really cool to watch, and because it seems everyone had the wrong idea about how the fish inflates.

As IFLScience reports, the odd creatures inflate themselves to be impressively large when threatened. Often, they grow to triple their normal size. When “puffed” up, however, it is difficult for them to eat. So, it doesn’t make sense to be expanded all of the time.

In the video below, the pufferfish deflates from its gargantuan size. The main reason it has gone viral is that nearly everyone thought the fish inflates from air — not water.

The neat video shows how pufferfish inflate by gulping water rapidly into their stomachs. Because they have incredibly elastic skin, the spikes on their exterior stand on end. If they stay inflated long enough, a predator will move along and find another fish to pursue.

The public shouldn’t feel too bad about the misunderstanding. For a long time, even scientists thought pufferfish inflated by holding their breath (similarly to as what was portrayed in Finding Nemo). This is because it was believed their gills would be hindered if they inflated with water. It doesn’t help that when outside of water, pufferfish can expand with air, too. All of these likely added to the misconception. Fortunately, time and research have revealed the truth.

In 2014, researchers at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science discovered that pufferfish take in oxygen through their gills when inflated. Thus, this put an end to former theories.

The pufferfish’s ability to inflate isn’t its only cool attribute. According to IPFactly, pufferfish are also toxic when they inflate. A dangerous chemical (tetrodotoxin or TTX) is released from their skin when a predator is near, and it is 100 times more toxic than cyanide. In addition, pufferfish have just four teeth — two on top and two on the bottom. Because they are tapered together, they are more like a beak.

Last but by no means least, some of the more than 100 species of pufferfish are endangered. The Chinese pufferfish, for instance, is found in China, Japan, and Korea, and is considered to be Critically Endangered. Its population has declined by 99 percent in the last 40 years due to overfishing for its meat (the fish is considered a “delicacy” in Japan). The Canthigaster cyanetron species of the pufferfish is also endangered and is found near Easter Island. Reportedly, destruction of reefs around the island has reduced its population.

We’ll bet you know a lot more about the pufferfish than when you first clicked on this article. Please share this news and comment your thoughts below!

h/t IFLScience

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