I was recently contacted by someone who had found a pufferfish washed up on Eastern Green beach at Penzance. It was taken to a local tackle shop, Newtown Angling, and frozen until i could collect it and take it to the Marine Biological Association for identification.....
The oceanic pufferfish is a very rare visitor to UK waters, preferring warmer waters, with only a small number having ever been recorded before. It appears that the warmer summer and subsequent higher water temperatures has brought them into UK waters. What makes this particular specimen interesting is that it is longer and heavier than the current maximum reported for the species. Current literature states the maximum total length to be 61.0cm and maximum weight to be 3.2kg. The specimen washed up in Penzance had a total length of 66.1cm and a weight of 3.295kg.
The Oceanic pufferfish mainly eats crustaceans and squid, and has an impressive set of 4 teeth to deal with them. Looking closely around its mouth its possible to see scarring and sucker marks from battles with squid!
The pouch is located on the belly of the fish, highly folded and elastic and houses small bony spines which protrude when the pufferfish puffs up.
The pufferfish had 2 large ovaries, therefore is a female. Upon dissecting one of the ovaries a parasite was found and had caused the area around it to become black and degraded. It is possible that this parasite led to an infection that caused the death of the pufferfish. If this ovarian parasite is species-specific to Lagocephalus lagocephalus it is possible that this a species new to science. It was fixed in formalin for further identification at a later date.
As a memento of the impressive pufferfish i decided to extract and keep it teeth!