A well grown porcupine fish is the new attraction at the marine aquarium at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) premises in Foreshore Estate here.

Giving details about the new exhibit, K. Venkataraman, Scientist and Officer-in-Charge of the Marine Biology Regional Centre of the ZSI, said they got the specimen from fishermen of Srinivasapuram a few days ago. Normally they are found in the coastal areas of tropical regions.

A uniqueness of this fish species is that the liver of the male and ovary of the female porcupine fishes have poison in them. Whenever they are eaten by another fish the neuro-toxic venom from the porcupine fish will kill its predator. The young porcupine fishes in order to protect themselves form shoals, large enough to accommodate hundreds of them, he said.

The porcupine fish mainly feeds on crabs, oysters, clams, snails and jelly fish. They are also found in the coral reef areas. In order to attract its prey, the porcupines spray water on their prey. Due to this habit, they are also known as ‘Blow Fish'.

Heaps of porcupines and puffer fishes, which are very poisonous, are being sold in Tuticorin in the State, he said. The poisonous glands are removed and exported and the remaining part consumed. In order to escape from being caught, the porcupines take in water or air and get bloated. They will appear as though they are dead resulting in the fishermen throwing them on the shore. Once they go closer to the water they will return to the sea, he said. In India there is a great scope for taking up research on the poisonous parts of porcupines with which medicines could be developed, Dr. Venkataraman added.