Porcupinefish Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Pufferfish, Porcupinefish, Puffers

Scientific Name:

Diodon Hystrix

Wild Status:

Status Unknown


near shore, inshore, shallow water


Tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide


holes and crevices in caves, shipwrecks, reefs, and ledges

Life Span:

4 to 6 years


up to 35 inches

Cool Facts:

  • They are eaten by humans in Hawaii and Tahiti.
  • Their defense mechanism is almost 100% effective at preventing predation
  • Their dried deflated bodies are sold as souvenirs in the Orient.
  • Porcupinefish skin was once used as war helmets.
  • Pufferfish are poor swimmers.
  • They can maneuver their eyes independently.


They may look like any regular ol' fish swimming around, but get too close to a Porcupinefish and they'll show you why they are not a force to be reckoned with. When a Pufferfish feels threatened it intakes water, puffs up like a balloon and makes its spikes all over its body stick out. These spikes are modified scales, which are usually laying flat when a Porcupinefish is relaxed. They deflate by exhaling the water back out through their mouths. But spikes aren't it’s only defense mechanism, Pufferfish also secrete a poisonous substance from their skin. These sea critters are solitary animals from birth. They only come together to mate. After their eggs are laid, baby Porcupinefish will float along with the current until they are ready to hunt for food. Pufferfish are nocturnal and prey at night for crustaceans (e.g. snails hermit crabs, and sea urchins) and mollusks. They have two long strong teeth, one at the top and one at the bottom of their jaws that create a beak-like mouth. Their jaws are strong enough to break through the exoskeleton of crustaceans. The Porcupinefish is prey to dolphinfish, wahoo, and sharks.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Osteichthyes Order: Tetraodontiformes Family: Tetraodontidae (puffers), Diodontidae (porcupinefish) Species: Tetraodontidae: 29 genera, 191 species Diodontidae: 7 genera, 18 species

Conservation & Helping:

Not endangered or vulnerable to extinction but conservation status is unknown.

For Teachers and Educators


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