Huge population explosion of Sharp nose puffers.

Has anyone else noticed a huge increase in Sharp nose puffers? We cover about 18 miles of coastline from the Mexico Belize border and north and in every dive site there is a huge number of these puffers. Nearly every other fish you see here now is a puffer. Anyone else seen this?


Yes, Steve. I've noticed

Yes, Steve. I've noticed that there are lots more up here in Cozumel this fall as well. Don't know why, tho....

Sharp nose puffers

My wife and I just got back from a week in Roatan (AKR) and noticed that the sharp nose puffers were plentiful there also.  We've never seen so many and on every dive.  Must be something about the second largest barrier reef.

Thanks for the confirmation.

Was out again today and there are still huge schools of them hanging around. On one dive site today there were hundreds of them just laying in the sand. Any biologists out there with any explaination for this?






Instructor and Photographer at Costa de Cocos Dive Resort.

Xcalak Mexico

Belize Too

I just returned from Ambergris Caye and there are sharpnose all over, shallow and deep, spread throughout the water column. Divemasters on the island say they began noticing them a few weeks ago and they've never seen them in these numbers before. Some that I saw (maybe five percent) were acting listless, and some looked shriveled, as if they were starving.   

I have also noticed a small

I have also noticed a small percentage of them looking sick and a few dead ones on the bottom. I also saw them acting as cleaners. Held my hand out and they would try to clean my finger tips. Havent seen any mention of this behavior in my books.Any marine biologists out there with info?






Instructor and Photographer at Costa de Cocos Dive Resort.

Xcalak Mexico

Population Explosion of Sharpnose Puffers - an explanation

Hello all.

This phenomenon was recently noted by several researchers and scientists on the Coral Reef Listserve. The most likely explanation for the explosion was posted by Dr. John Ogdon -- "My guess is that sharpnose puffers have the same type of recruitment as Bill Gladfelter and I observed for balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus) many years ago in St. Croix. The larvae are pelagic for a long larval life, up to a year. During this interval; they slowly gather into huge schools of many thousands of individuals (about 3cm long) which then recruit en mass to whatever coastal region is favorable within the time frame of development. The area then becomes completely flooded with recruits which gradually disperse and are preyed upon. You could call this a sort of 17-year locust type of recruitment."

You can view the entire thread of Coral Listserv posts on this topic here --

-- Christy Pattengill-Semmens
REEF Director of Science

sharp nosed puffer fish


I was in Akumal, Mexico and saw literally thousands of juvenile puffer fish washing up on the beach every day.
The areas I visited and saw the dead puffers were from Playa del Carmen down to Punta Allen.

None of the locals had ever seen this phenomenon and nobody knew of a cause. There was no red tide at the time.

Observations of Canthigaster rostrata (sharpnose puffer)

I just recently got back from a week intensive class at the University of Minnesota that went down to Anthony's Key Resort in Honduras, and I once I noticed the event I decided to do a small project looking at the density of the sharpnose puffers since it is a recent event that nobody quite understands.

On Jan 6th at 10am, I counted 104 sharpnose puffer individuals in 30m2 by doing a 15m belt transect, and Jennifer (one of the coordinators there) confirmed 98 individuals by counting behind me. The transect was at 40 ft at the Fish Den dive site.

On Jan 7th at 3pm,  Jennifer counted 91 individuals using the same technique at 40 ft at Barry's Reef dive site.

There density seemed to remain fairly similar in all the other dives we did ranging from a wreck dive at 120 ft to snorkeling in the shallows, but those two transects were the only two counts we took.

We didn't see many dead sharpnose puffers, but we did occasionally see a few on the sea floor during our dives. They weren't dieing off by the hundreds or thousands, at least not yet.

I'm hoping that either Jennifer or anybody else continues to monitor the population, health, and behavior during this event.

I also took some observations and noticed that most of them were located on a little patch of reef and I saw many of them fighting to defend their territory. Many of the ones with territory also occured in pairs. In general, those that had territory looked healthy, and most of the lone free swimmers looked starved, sickly, and some were diseased with white spots covering their body. Jennifer had said that they normally ate inverts, but during the dives I saw them picking at everything including algae, sponges, corals, and sea fans (although I couldn't tell if they were eating little creatures off of them or were trying to eat the item itself). Wouldn't surprise me if they are trying to eat anything because their high population density has probably caused them to eat most of their normal food source.

I don't know much, but my thoughts on the event are similar to Dr. John Ogdon. I think that there was recent spawning event that doesn't normally occur or else the majority of the larvae somehow survived a normal spawning event, and now there is an over abundance of the population that will disperse in area and die off until they reach their environments carrying capacity.


Sharpnose Puffer research

I just returned from Roatan, Honduras and I was originally studying predatory fish diversities. However, when I started collecting data, the population boom in puffers made me rethink my thesis, so now I'm working on trying to figure out why there are so many puffers now. Compared to my May, 2008 trip to Honduras, the density and diversity of major predatory fish species- snapper, grouper, and the like, are decreasing, while the sharpnose puffers are increasing. This may be an interesting link between the two. I observed grazing habits of the sharpnose puffers, and from my data, they seem to be nipping on algae the most, with sponge and coral making up the next most desired.

I'll be returning to Roatan to get mroe data sometime after May. It will be interesting to see if the population decreases or increases by then.

blind porcupine fish

i've seen two blind porcupine fish and one with some eye problems this week in st. kitts. the blind ones look like they have cataracts. the other one has really thickened lids - nearly closing the eye. does anyone know what would cause this? do we have something new in our water?

Mass sharp tail puffer dieoff

Saw 10's to 100's of thousands of dead sharpnose puffers today in the water and (mostly) washed  en masse on the shore at Manzanillo, Costa Rica


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