Deadly pufferfish poison relieves stress in deadly pufferfish
Tetrodotoxin, the chemical weapon of choice for pufferfish, is such a potent neurotoxin that a single animal contains enough poison to paralyze and kill dozens of predators, and even adult humans who dare to eat their delicate flesh. But new research suggests the poison serves another purpose for the fish entirely: stress relief.
Japanese, or tiger, puffers (Takifugu rubripes) don’t make their own tetrodotoxin (TTX), but instead accumulate it in their muscles, organs, and skin from TTX-making bacteria in their diet. Those raised in captivity tend to have different diets and, thus, lose their toxicity. To find out how the toxin affects developing fish, researchers augmented the diets of young, captive puffers with a dosage of purified TTX for 1 month.