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With a face like this, why is Nemo a movie star and not this little sweetie? Probably because this ‘oh-so-cute-in-the-photo’ globefish (Diodon nicthemerus) can use its strong beak of fused teeth to bite off human toes!

And once alarmed, they can be indeed alarming. Globefish can inflate themselves into a spherical shape by swallowing water or air – and up go their spines! Hence their other names of slender-spined porcupine fish, and mistakenly, balloon fish or even puffer fish.

These spines allow the globefish to dramatically increase their size, which usually makes them a much less tasty choice for predators.

Image by Ray Lewis

The globefish is one of the smallest of the porcupine fish family, usually growing to no more than 15 cm, but can reach around 30 cm. Quite a handful … and poisonous.

They are found only in the temperate, southern waters of Australia, and have been recorded from Geraldton in Western Australia around to Port Jackson in New South Wales.

Globefish are most common in Tasmanian waters and Port Phillip where they are found in shallow, coastal waters – especially in sheltered areas such as reefs and jetties.

They are found in many of the marine parks and sanctuaries in Victoria, with Parks Victoria listing them as occuring in

  • Yaringa
  • French Island
  • Churchill Island
  • Corner Inlet
  • Jawbone
  • Marengo Reef
  • Beware Reef
  • Ricketts Point and the Ninety Mile Beach.

They tend to occur in small groups, and are usually nocturnal, but are also active on days when it is overcast.
GlobefishBeing poisonous, they are of no interest to fisheries, but do occur in the by-catch during trawling. Globefish are particularly susceptible to this as they are found in the lowest areas of the water column; the benthic and demersal zones. Their spines are also easily entangled in trawls and nets.

Although adult globefish live in the bottom area of shallow seas, to a depth of 60 or so metres, the eggs and juveniles are pelagic; that is they are found in water that is neither close to the bottom nor near the shore.

Globefish are carnivorous and feed on hard-shelled invertebrates such as small molluscs, including scallops (so not popular with scallop farmers). The introduced marine pest, the screw shell, has been recorded as forming part of their diet. Well done, globefish!

The globefish is truly one of our living marine treasures, and we are fortunate to be able to see this little gem so easily.

'i sea, i care Community logoHelp protect the gorgeous little globefish, and our other marine treasures by supporting DRI. Join our ‘i sea, i care‘ Communities.

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