Sunday 28 October 2012

A new species of Pufferfish form French Polynesia.

Pufferfish of the genus Canthigaster (Sharp Nosed Puffers or Tobies) are small, widely distributed, tropical fish capable of inflating themselves as a defense mechanism, which both makes them larger (harder to swallow, more imposing) and exposes hidden spines. If this is not sufficient deterrent to predators, the Fish are also extremely toxic, producing a powerful neurotoxin in their livers, and sometimes other organs.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 23 October 2012, Jeffrey Williams of the Division of Fishes at the Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the US National Museum of Natural History, and Erwan Delrieu-Trottin and Serge Planes of the Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l'Environnement at the Université de Perpignan, describe a new species of Pufferfish in the genus Canthigaster from off Kouaku Island in the Gambier Archipelago in French Polynesia.

Satellite image of Kouaku Island. Google Maps.

The new species is named Canthigaster criobe, from CRIOBE, the acronym for Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l'Environnement. The species is described from a single Fish, caught in a small surge channel in outer reef at a depth of 15-20 m. Despite having only a single specimen of the Fish, Williams et al. are confident in their diagnosis of it as being a distinct species, due to its distinctive stripy pattern, not seen in any other member of the genus. They suggest that it be given the common name 'Striped Toby'.

Canthigaster criobe. (Top) Photograph. (Bottom) X-ray radiograph. Williams et al. (2012).

Canthigaster criobe is a 38.7 mm Pufferfish with a distinct tan and orange striped body pattern. It has 17 spines on its pectoral fin, 9 rays on its dorsal fin, 9 rays on its anal fin and 9 branched rays on its caudal (tail) fin. It's spines are hidden in grooves and point to the real when relaxed, making it smooth to the tough when stroked from head to tail but prickly when stroked from tail to head.

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