How pufferfish can cause 'zombification'

How pufferfish can cause ‘zombification’

If you’re into the creepy, the kooky, the mys­te­ri­ous and spooky, read on as we uncov­er the dark side of pufferfish.

It’s often in the dark depths of the ocean that some of the most inter­est­ing tales come to light. Like that of the inno­cent-look­ing pufferfish.

Did you know that almost all puffer­fish, even South Australia’s own, con­tain tetrodotox­in, which is dead­ly to humans?

When tetrodotox­in is ingest­ed it shuts down the ner­vous sys­tem and stops things like breath­ing and mus­cu­lar functions.

Real life zombies

The peo­ple of Haiti believe that the poi­son in puffer­fish caus­es real life zom­bies.

Haiti is locat­ed in the Caribbean Sea on half of the island of His­pan­io­la. Dur­ing the 1980s, anthro­pol­o­gist Wade Davis inves­ti­gat­ed the Hait­ian zom­bie and uncov­ered that they are far from a folk­loric myth.

He report­ed that Hait­ian voodoo priests were mak­ing a con­coc­tion that includ­ed the puffer­fish chem­i­cal tetrodotox­in mixed with voodoo sor­cery to cause paral­y­sis in peo­ple and turn them into real life zombies.

It’s believed that peo­ple are turned into zom­bies as a pun­ish­ment and if a per­son dies of unnat­ur­al caus­es, such as mur­der, the voodoo priests may zomb­i­fy them to access cheap labour to work their paddocks.

Believe what you will, but the Hait­ian zom­bie is a dif­fer­ent kind of scary com­pared to west­ern culture’s blood­thirsty fic­tion­al zom­bie interpretation.

SA puffers and your fluffers’

In SA, we have many puffer­fish species includ­ing the com­mon and poi­so­nous smooth toad­fish. These fish can be found over sandy, mud­dy seafloor and in sea­grass beds across the state. Port Noar­lun­ga, Aldin­ga and Rapid Head Sanc­tu­ary Zones in Encounter Marine Park are great places to go div­ing and see these fas­ci­nat­ing sea creatures.

Puffer­fish occa­sion­al­ly wash ashore on SA’s coasts. Some years, when there are long peri­ods of hot, calm weath­er, algal blooms reduce the oxy­gen in nearshore waters, caus­ing puffers to wash up on the shore in large numbers.

So if you’re strolling along the beach with your pooch dur­ing the warmer months, remem­ber to keep watch of their wan­der­ing noses, and don’t let your dog’s break­fast be a puffer.

Learn more about what you can find along SA’s beach­es by read­ing ourbeach­comb­ing guideor check­ing out our sto­ry about themost com­mon­ly mis­tak­en marine crea­tures. If you’re inter­est­ed in find­ing out how sci­en­tists uncov­er the mys­ter­ies of the deep blue sea,get up to speed about BRU­Vs.

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in Octo­ber 2017.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living