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Spiny Balloonfish

Common name for a marine and estuary fish, with the scientific-Latin designation Diodon holocanthus. It dwells mostly in shallow coastal waters, such as coral reefs and lagoons, where it feeds on sea urchins and hard-shelled invertebrates, such as shrimp, crabs, hermit crabs (fig.), snails and clams, for which it uses a strong, beak-like mouth, that consists of teeth fused together. It has large eyes and a rather elongated, up to 50 centimetres long, squarish body, covered in long sharp spines, that are folded backwards, and which it is able to inflate to a spiky ball three times its normal size by rapidly ingesting water, making the spines stand upright, a feature it employs when it feels threatened, and which gave this fish its common name. It is pale in colour, with above large brownish blotches and smaller black spots, which becoming fewer in number with age. This spiky creature is extremely poisonous. It produces tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin and one of the most toxic substances known to science. When infested it shuts down the nervous system and can cause paralysis and death within hours. Despite of this, the fish is used in traditional Chinese medicine and its meat is eaten as a delicacy in Japan, served as sashimi, i.e. raw, under the name fugu (フグ), spelled in Kanji as (河豚), which literally means ‘river pig’, though the term is said to derive from fukuramu or fukureru (膨), i.e. ‘to swell’, and abbreviated to fuku. As expected, fugu cuisine is regulated by rigid laws and this potentially lethal fish can only be served by licensed chefs, that have trained for usually five to seven years. To ensure maximum security, these chefs must learn and pass an exam about the identification of all balloonfish and blowfish species, their distinctive anatomy, the relative toxicity of the parts, methods of disembowelling and cleaning, instructions for preparation, and even first aid procedures. The Spiny Balloonfish is also commonly known by the names Freckled Porcupinefish, Longspined Porcupinefish, and Long-spine Porcupinefish. See also POSTAGE STAMP.