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Pufferfish myth busted—they do so breathe when puffed up

Posted December 5, 2014

A pair of researchers, one with James Cook University the other the Australian Institute of Marine Science has shown that the common myth that pufferfish don’t breathe when puffed up, is completely wrong. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters,marine scientists Georgia McGee and Timothy Clark describe their study of the quirky fish and how they disproved the myth.


Inflated Arothron. Credit: Mactan Cebu, Philippines Arothron stellatus


To uncover the truth, the two researchers ventured out to the Great Barrier Reef and captured several black-saddled pufferfish. The specimens were taken to a lab for testing, which consisted of two tests, both of which involved studying the fish in its puffed up state (by poking them gently with a small sucking tube). The first experiment involved continually measuring oxygen levels in the tanks that housed the fish. The research duo noted that oxygen levels dropped the entire time the fish were in the tanks, including while puffed up. The next experiment was less technical, they simply watched carefully to see if the fish kept their gills closed, a sign that they were not breathing. They found that the fish continued to use their gills while puffed.

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