June 15, 2024

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Mediterranean: Poisonous pufferfish on the rise


Adriatic coastPoisonous pufferfish are spreading in the Mediterranean

A highly poisonous fish is spreading in the Mediterranean. A few milligrams of its venom is enough to kill a human.

Karin Ludold
  • Most specimens of the poisonous rabbit’s head pufferfish are found in the Mediterranean Sea.

  • A marine researcher warns: The species is invasive and has no natural enemies.

  • This fish entered the Mediterranean from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal.

It is considered one of the most endangered fish in the world – several specimens of the rabbit’s head pufferfish have appeared in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days. Last weekend, Slovenian amateur fisherman Anton Vidovic took seven specimens off the Croatian island of Ceja in Medulin Bay.

“They have a tail like a cat, a head like a python,” the fisherman describes his discovery to the “Judernchi” portal. A fish was caught at a depth of 19 meters and taken to the Rovinj Marine Research Centre.

One to two milligrams of venom is enough to kill

The pufferfish has four sharp and strong teeth, and bites can cause serious injuries. But especially dangerous is the very strong poison that the fish contains. Consumption of tetrodotoxin can cause serious health problems and even death.

Tetrodotoxin is highly concentrated in the gonads and liver, but is also found in the skin. That is why under no circumstances should you touch the rabbit’s head with your bare hands. A single dose of one to two milligrams is believed to be fatal. Tetrodotoxin poisoning leads to muscle paralysis, respiratory failure and heart failure.

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From the Red Sea to the Mediterranean

“The species is invasive. It reached the Mediterranean from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. They originally belonged to the tropical parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Due to the lack of natural enemies, the fish has a negative impact on Adriatic biodiversity and poses a risk to fisheries and fishermen,” said Jurja Dobrila from the University of Pula on Facebook. Neven Ivesa explains.

A few years ago it was mainly found in Greece and Turkey, but the rabbit’s head pufferfish is now also found in Italy and Spain.

Open water swimmers are especially at risk. The fish lives at depths of ten to 100 meters and is not considered invasive. “You shouldn’t drive the pufferfish into a corner, though, because it will defend itself and bite,” marine conservation biologist Sylvia Frey explained to 20 Minutes last summer.

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