Bullseye Puffer, Sphoeroides annulatus
The Bullseye Puffer, Sphoeroides annulatus, whose common Spanish name is Botete Diana, is a member of the Puffer or Tetraodontidae Family, known collectively as “botetes” in Mexico.
The Bullseye Puffer has a moderately elongated body whose width is 25-33% of standard length. They are an olive-brown color on the back and the ventral side is unusually flat and white in color. The head and back has narrow yellowish lines, bars and oblique bands and three narrow bands just behind eyes. There is a double concentric oval on the back for which they are named. The head, sides and upper back are covered with numerous small dark spots. The fins are spotless. The iris of the eye is yellow. The head is large, projecting and blunt, the gap between the elevated eyes is wide and convex, and they have strong powerful teeth. The anal and dorsal fins are small, similarly shaped with short bases and found well back in the body with the anal fin being slightly behind the dorsal fin. The caudal fin is bluntly convex. The head and body are covered with small spines and the skin is scaleless.
The Bullseye Puffer resides over sandy bottoms and occasionally around rocky reefs and adjacent sand patches at depths up to 345 feet and can be often seen by divers at midwater depths. They reach a maximum length of 48 cm (18.9 inches). They are exceedingly well camouflaged but may not have the ability to blow themselves up like other puffers to deter attack by predators. The Bullseye Puffer is found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific. They are a rare poorly studied species and there is very limited information available about their behavioral patterns.
Freshly caught Bullseye Puffer is an easy fish to identify and cannot be confused with any other species due to the markings on the back. Post collection these markings tend to fade making the identification a bit more difficult.
The Bullseye Puffer is accessible off the beach via hook and line at certain times of the year. They are more abundant along the southern west coast of Baja. Cut crab is used primarily by locals as the bait of choice; they are considered to be an esteemed food fish consumed as sushi. The amount, if any, of tetrodotoxin they contain and the related concerns about the potential health threat to humans is unknown. Until this is well documented I do not recommend the human consumption of this species.