Bullseye Puffer, Sphoeroides annulatus
The Bullseye Puffer, Sphoeroides annulatus, whose common Spanish name is botete diana, and known locally as botete, is a species in the family Tetraodontidae, the Puffers, known as botetes in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty three species in the genus Sphoeroides, of which eleven are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.
The Bullseye Puffers have moderately elongated bodies with a depth that is 25 – 33% of standard length. Their back is olive-brown and their unusually flat ventral side is white. Their head and back have narrow yellowish lines, bars, and oblique bands and three narrow bands just behind the eyes. There is a double concentric oval on their back after which they are named. Their head, sides, and upper back are covered with numerous small dark spots. Their fins are spotless. The iris of their eyes is yellow. Their head is large, projecting, and blunt and the gap between their elevated eyes is wide and convex. They have strong powerful teeth. Their anal and dorsal fins are small and similarly shaped, have short bases, and are found well back on their body with the anal fin being slightly behind the dorsal fin. Their caudal fin is bluntly convex. Their head and body are covered with small spines and their skin is scaleless.
The Bullseye Puffers reside over sandy bottoms and occasionally around rocky reefs and adjacent sand patches at depths up to 345 feet; they can often be seen by divers at mid water depths. They reach a maximum length of 48 cm (19 inches). They are exceedingly well camouflaged but may not have the ability to blow themselves up like other Puffers to deter predator attacks. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific. They are a rare poorly studied species and very limited information is available about their behavioral patterns.
Freshly-caught Bullseye Puffers are easy to identify due to the markings on their backs and cannot be confused with any other species. Post collection these markings tend to fade making the identification a bit more difficult.
The Bullseye Puffers are 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 this species for human consumption.