Pufferfish are small and beautiful fish that can be found in oceans around the world. They are slow moving and clumsy, yet they are the most deadly fish, and even the most deadly animal on the planet, if consumed. The organs of the pufferfish contain a powerful neurotoxin that is sufficient to kill 30 adult humans. Even the skin and some of the flesh contains dangerous amounts of the toxin. Although it is a mysterious process that allows the pufferfish to create this deadly substance, it is now widely believed that the toxins are created by bacteria that live in the intestines and digestive tract of the pufferfish. If the fish is ingested, a human or animal will experience tingling, numbness, paralysis and death. The toxins are often fatal within 24 hours and there is no known antidote. Despite the immense danger associated with consuming pufferfish, it is considered a delicacy in certain Asian cultures. Chefs with great skill are able to prepare the fish in ways that lessen the danger, but mistakes are often fatal. Consuming the fish raw adds to the likelihood that it can be life threatening. For some, experiencing minor effects of the toxin is considered a thrill, and the near brush with death entices them to consume the pufferfish for the adventure. For scuba divers, these adorable fish are a welcome sight on the reef. When given a respectful distance, the pufferfish minds its own business. If threatened, it can inflate and extend spines, making it difficult to swallow. If an animal succeeds in swallowing the fish, the inflated puffers can cause the predator to choke or to experience blockage and dangerous injury in the stomach. And despite its baby faced appearance, the pufferfish has immense and powerful teeth, capable of inflicting a nasty bite, if needed. For the underwater photographer who has a healthy respect for these fish, they make excellent photographic subjects. The ocean is full of strange and fascinating creatures. Many have unique and effective defense mechanisms to ensure their survival.
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