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New in the autumn collection of Naturalis: Lagocephalus lagocephalus

Posted on 01-11-2017 by Toine Baken

The arrival of a new lost tropical fish in the collection of Naturalis yesterday: a pufferfish that washed ashore at Renesse (Zeeland, NL)!

It seems like it’s not very uncommon for tropical fish to lose directions and end up north! Following the sunfish in our previous blog post, the subject of today’s post also had some issues finding its intended destination. This time, the animal washed ashore only recently: on October 16th on a beach near Renesse. And this is remarkable for several reasons!

The fish, Lagocephalus lagocephalus, is a tropical and also poisonous pufferfish species, in English ‘oceanic puffer’. This is only the second sighting of this species on our far from tropical white beaches. It’s so rare, that biologists had to promptly come up with a Dutch name for the species when it was first sighted back in 2014! The name (which is not acknowledged as an official Dutch name just yet because of its rarity here) is a translation of the Latin name ‘Lagocephalus’: ‘hazenkopvis’, meaning “fish with a hare’s head”.

Hazenkopvis aankomst resized

The ocean pufferfish that has been found on the beach of Renesse on 16 October 2017 at its arrival in the collection of Naturalis.

Normally, this species occurs more south. It is often seen on the French beaches of Bretagne and the south coast of England. A possible explanation for the deviated course of this oceanic puffer is found in recent extreme weather phenomena. The hurricane Ophelia of October 2017 was already a special event: it was the first time that a category 3 tropical hurricane has moved as close to Europe (Ireland) as this one did! It could be that our oceanic puffer has drifted to The Netherlands with ocean currents affected by Ophelia.

When this is the case, then this rare find is possibly not an incident. It could be possible that in the (near) future even more animals can be found on our coasts that normally occur farther south! If you encounter an oceanic puffer on the beach, do not touch it: it’s poisonous! Pufferfish inflate themselves when threatened and often have a poisonous skin. This particular species mostly has a venomous bite. Did you know that Naturalis recently opened an exhibition on venomous and poisonous animals in the museum? Visit the GIF-exhibition to learn more about how different animal species use poison as a defense mechanism!