Evil eye pufferfish on the sand at Long Beach

Sea life: Puffer fish

In Cape Town we find evil eye puffer fish, the gorgeously chubby creatures that have the ability to inflate their bodies when they feel threatened. Their flesh is deadly poisonous and they are considered a menace by anglers because of their bait-stealing tendencies.

Evil eye puffer fish buried in the sand
Evil eye puffer fish buried in the sand

They are often found buried in the sand – we found hundreds when we dived the North Battery pipeline – but sometimes you find them swimming about in the water column. They are ambush predators, hiding in the sand waiting for crabs and other small fish to eat. They don’t have teeth as such, but rather a sort of fused beak for biting.

Evil eye pufferfish on the sand at Long Beach
Evil eye pufferfish on the sand at Long Beach

They are not good swimmers at all, and are extremely docile when you swim over them or accidentally put your hand down next to them on the sand. They aren’t harmful to touch, but should under no circumstances be eaten.

Tiny puffer fish
Tiny puffer fish - can you see him eyeing you on the right of the photo?

I found this tiny, tiny chap at Long Beach – he was as big as the first joint of one of my fingers. He’s hard to spot in these two photos, but I promise he’s there! This is camouflage at its finest.

Spot the puffer fish
Spot the puffer fish - he's as big as a thumbnail!

We seem to see them in the greatest numbers when cold, cold water floods into False Bay – often after a strong north-west wind.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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