Guineafowl Puffer, Arothron meleagris
The Guineafowl Puffer, Arothron meleagris, whose common Spanish name is Botete Aletas Punteadas, is a member of the Puffer or Tetraodontidae Family, known collectively as “botetes” in Mexico.
The Guineafowl Puffer has a heavy rounded body and are uniformly color being black covered with numerous small white spots (the Black Puffer or Botete Negro), bright yellow (the Golden Puffer or Botete Dorado) or a mixture of bright yellow with black patches. They have large blunt heads with short snouts equipped with a set of massive teeth. They have small similarily shaped anal and dorsal fins that are well back in the body. The caudal fin base is long and deep and the caudal fin is rounded. The body is covered with small dentricles that resemble coarse sandpaper.
The Guineafowl Puffer is found in and around rocky coral reefs at depths up to 240 feet. They reach a maximum length of 40 cm (15.7 inches). They have the ability to blow themselves up like balloons which is presumably a defense mechanism to deter attack by predators. They feed on coral, small sea animals, sponges, seaweed, crown-of-thorn starfish and detritus. Although very common they are a poorly studied species there is very limited information available about their behavioral patterns.
The Guineafowl Puffer is not easily confused in the wild with other species with the exception of perhaps the female Spotted Boxfish, Ostracion melearis, but the boxfish is easily distinguished by their rigid structure. The Guineafowl Puffer is widely distributed across the central Indian and Pacific Oceans from Africa, throughout Micronesia and to the Eastern Pacific south to Ecuador. In Mexico, they are on the east coast of Baja from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas and along the coastal mainland from Guaymas to Los Mochis, and from Mazatlán to Guatemala; they are also common to all offshore islands including Tres Marias and The Revillagigedos.
The Guineafowl Puffer has limited interest to most being a “catch and release” They are a curiosity and can put on an interest show with encouragement as they will inflate but they have no structure, no rigid backbone and resemble a “tube of goo.” They are also visually interesting as they paddle back to deeper waters post release. They can be caught off the beach with some regularity if you allow you bait to sit quietly over a sand bottom. If your line is severed it is most likely these guys or the Porcupinefish, Diodon hystrix. Note: Like many puffers, the Guineafowl Puffer is reputed to be highly poisonous, even fatal, if eaten, due to the presence of the toxin tetrodotoxin, found in the skin, viscera and gonads, which believed to present to protect them from predation by larger fish.