Common name: Puffer-fishes and allies

An extremely diverse and specialized group of bony fishes found worldwide in temperate and tropical seas. A few species enter freshwater. The order comprises 412 extant species in the 10 families of living Tetraodontiformes: Triacanthodidae 23 species in 11 genera, Triacanthidae seven species in four genera, Balistidae 37 species in 12 genera, Monacanthidae 102 species in 27 genera, Aracanidae 13 species in six genera, Ostraciidae 22 species in five genera, Triodontidae monotypic, Tetraodontidae 184 species in 27 genera, Diodontidae 18 species in seven genera, and Molidae five species in three genera (Matsuura 2014).

Species share the loss, reduction or fusion of many bony structures in the head and body. Fins and their supporting elements are reduced or lost, and vertebrae are reduced in number. 

Pufferfishes and their allies have small mouths with very unusual dentition. They have modified teeth that may be enlarged or fused into a beak-like structure, or incorporated into the jaw bones. The gill opening is reduced to a small slit near the pectoral-fin base, and most have thick skin, covered in scales that are modified into spines, ossicles or fused bony plates. Some groups are poisonous, and the puffers and porcupinefishes are highly inflatable.

Author: Dianne J. Bray

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Puffer-fishes, TETRAODONTIFORMES in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/order/51

Order References

Alfaro, M.E., Santini, F. & Brock C.D. 2007. Do reefs drive diversification in marine teleosts? Evidence from the pufferfishes and their allies (order Tetraodontiformes). Evolution 61: 2104–2126.

Brainerd, E.L., Slutz, S.S., Hall, E.K. & Phillis, R.W. 2001. Patterns of genome size evolution in tetraodontiform fishes. Evolution 55(11): 2363–2368.

Britz, R. & D.G. Johnson. 2005. Occipito-vertebral fusion in ocean sunfishes (Teleostei: Tetraodontiformes: Molidae) and its phylogenetic implications. Journal of Morphology 266: 74–79.

Francis, M.P. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pac. Sci. 47(2): 136-170

Fraser-Brunner, A. 1943. Notes on the plectognath fishes. VIII. The classification of the suborder Tetraodontoidea, with a synopsis of the genera. Annals and Magazine of Natural History Series 11 10: 1–10.

Gomon, M.F., D.J, Bray & R.H. Kuiter. 2006. Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. New Hooland Publishers, Chatswood, Australia.

Halstead, B.W., P.S. Auerbach & D.R. Campbell. 1990. A colour atlas of dangerous marine animals. Wolfe Medical Publications Ltd, W.S. Cowell Ltd, Ipswich, England. 192 p.

Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, G.R. Allen & J.R. Paxton. 2006. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. Fishes. ABRS & CSIRO publishing. Part 3, pp. xxi 1473-2178.

Holcroft, N.I. 2004. A molecular test of alternative hypotheses of tetraodontiform (Acanthomorpha: Tetraodontiformes) sister group relationships using data from the RAG1 gene. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32: 749–760.

Holcroft, N.I. 2005. A molecular analysis of the interrelationships of tetraodontiform fishes (Acanthomorpha: Tetraodontiformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34: 525–544.

Hutchins, J.B. 2002. Description of a new genus and species of minute monacanthid fish from the Seychelles and Marshall Islands. Records of the Western Australian Museum 21: 213–219.

Klassen, G.J. 1995. Phylogeny and biogeography of the Ostraciinae (Tetraodontiformes: Ostraciidae). Bulletin of Marine Science 57(2): 393–441.

Leis, J.M. 1984. Tetraodontiformes: relationships, pp. 459-463. In Moser, H.G. et al (eds.) Ontogeny and systematics of fishes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, special publication. Lawrence, Kansas: Allen Press Inc.

Matsuura, K. 1979. Phylogeny of the Superfamily Balistoidea (Pisces: Tetraodontiformes). Memoirs of the Faculty of Fisheries, Hokkaido University 26(1/2): 49–169.

Matsuura, K. 2014. Taxonomy and systematics of tetraodontiform fishes: a review focusing primarily on progress in the period from 1980 to 2014. Ichthyological Research DOI 10.1007/s10228-014-0444-5

Matsuura, K. & J.C. Tyler. 1994. Triggerfishes & their allies, pp. 227-231. In Paxton, J.R. & W.N. Eschmeyer (eds.) Encyclopedia of fishes. San Diego, California: Academic Press.

Miya, M., Takeshima, H., Endo, H., Ishiguro, N.B., Inoue, J.G., Mukai, T., Satoh, T.P., Yamaguchi, M., Kawaguchi, A., Mabuchi, K., Shirai, S.M. & Nishida, M. 2003. Major patterns of higher teleostean phylogenies: a new perspective based on 100 complete mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 26: 121–138.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Hokoben, New Jersey, 601 p.

Nolf, D. & J.C. Tyler. 2006. Otolith evidence concerning interrelationships of caproid, zeiform and tetraodontiform fishes. Bulletin de l’Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Biologie 76: 147-189.

Rosen, D.E. 1984. Zeiforms as primitive plectognath fishes. American Museum Novitates 2782: 1–38.

Santini, F. & J.C. Tyler. 2002. Phylogeny of the ocean sunfishes (Molidae, Tetraodontiformes), a highly derived group of teleost fishes. Italian Journal of Zoology 69: 37–43.

Santini, F. & J.C. Tyler 2002. Phylogeny and biogeography of the extant species of triplespine fishes (Triacanthidae, Tetraodontiformes). Zoologica Scripta 31: 321–330.

Santini, F. & J.C. Tyler. 2003. A phylogeny of the families of fossil and extant tetraodontiform fishes (Acanthomorpha, Tetraodontiformes), Upper Cretaceous to Recent. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 139: 565–617.

Tyler, J.C. 1962. The pelvis and pelvic fin of plectognath fishes; a study in reduction. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 114: 207–250.

Tyler, J.C. 1963. The apparent reduction in the number of precaudal vertebrae in trunkfishes (Ostraciontoidea, Plectognathi). Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 115: 153–190.

Tyler, J.C. 1980. Osteology, phylogeny, and higher classification of the fishes of the order Plectognathi (Tetraodontiformes). NOAA Technical Report NMFS Circular 434: 1–422.

Tyler, J.C. & N. Holcroft. 2007. Tetraodontiformes. triggerfishes, boxfishes, puffers (fugu), molas and allies. Version 19 February 2007. http://tolweb.org/Tetraodontiformes/52153/2007.02.19 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/.

Tyler, J.C., Mirzaie, M. & A. Nazemi. 2006. New genus and species of basal tetraodontoid puffer fish from the Oligocene of Iran, related to the Zignoichthyidae (Tetraodontiformes). Bollettino del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Verona 30: 49-58.

Tyler, J.C., O’Toole, B. & R. Winterbottom. 2003. Phylogeny of the genera and families of zeiform fishes, with comments on their relationships with tetraodontiforms and caproids. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 618: 1–110.

Tyler, J.C. & F. Santini. 2002. Review and reconstructions of the tetraodontiform fishes from the Eocene of Monte Bolca, Italy, with comments on related Tertiary taxa. Studi e Ricerche sui Giacimenti Terziari di Bolca, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Verona 9: 47–119.

Tyler, J.C. & L. Sorbini. 1996. New superfamily and three new families of tetraodontiform fishes from the Upper Cretaceous: the earliest and most morphologically primitive plectognaths. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 82: 1–59.

Winterbottom, R. 1974. The familial phylogeny of the Tetraodontiformes (Acanthopterygii: Pisces) as evidenced by their comparative myology. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 155: 1–201.

Winterbottom, R. & J.C. Tyler. 1983. Phylogenetic relationships of aracanin genera of boxfishes (Ostraciidae: Tetraodontiformes). Copeia 1983(4): 902–917.

Yamanoue, Y., Miya, M., Doi, H., Mabuchi, K., Sakai, H. & M. Nishida. 2011. Multiple invasions into freshwater by pufferfishes (Teleostei: Tetraodontidae): a mitogenomic perspective. PLoS ONE 6(2): e17410. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017410

Yamanoue, Y., Miya, M., Matsuura, K., Katoh, M., Sakai, H., et al. 2008. A new perspective on phylogeny and evolution of tetraodontiform fishes (Pisces: Acanthopterygii) based on whole mitochondrial genome sequences: basal ecological diversification? BMC Evolutionary Biology 8: 212.

Yamanoue, Y., Miya, M., Inoue, J.G., Matsuura, K. & Nishida, M. 2006. The mitochondrial genome of spotted green pufferfish Tetraodon nigroviridis (Teleostei: Tetraodontiformes) and divergence time estimation among model organisms in fishes. Genes and Genetic Systems 81: 29–39.

Yamanoue, Y., Miya, M., Matsuura, K., Miyazawa, S., Tsukamoto, N., et al. 2009. Explosive speciation of Takifugu: another use of fugu as a model system for evolutionary biology. Molecular Biology and Evolution 26: 623–629.