Deadly oceanic pufferfish typically found in subtropical waters washes up on Dorset beach

Pufferfish was found with its stomach fully inflated

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A deadly pufferfish usually found roaming tropical waters surprised one man when it washed up on a beach in Dorset.

The 12-inch-long, poisonous oceanic pufferfish was discovered by walker Richard Fabbri on Chesil Beach. Puzzled by its inflated stomach, Mr Fabbri took it into Marc Smith at the Chesil Beach Centre on Saturday for help identifying it.

Mr Smith said oceanic pufferfish are usually found in tropical and sub-tropical oceans, but are “occasional visitors” to the south-west coast of England in late summer and autumn.

He told The Independent: “I couldn’t work out what it was straight away because it was so unusual - there has only ever been a small number of that species of pufferfish ever recorded arriving here."

He said the fish tend to arrive in Cornwall every two to five years when they "wander in" on warmer water.

The inflated fish are known for their fused teeth, creating a powerful beak used to feed on crustaceans.

The fish's powerful beak (Marc Smith/ Dorset Wildlife Trust)

When under threat, the fish fill their bodies with water or air in a bid to ward off predators. Their toxin has no known antidote, making them extremely poisonous.

As well as puffing themselves up in the sea, the creatures can also puff up in the predator’s throat, causing spines from their stomach to become lodged in the throat wall.

Richard Fabbri holds up the pufferfish (Pic: Marc Smith, Dorset Wildlife Trust)

Mr Smith said: “The oceanic pufferfish are also quite toxic if they are eaten because their internal organs contain a neurotoxin which is similar to that released by the pufferfish eaten in Japan. If a human ate one without realising what it was, it would be deadly. Chefs in Japan have to have a special license to prepare them.”

Mr Smith said this particular fish was in good condition and did not appear to have been attacked. Staff at the centre are unsure as to how it died.

“What was interesting is the fish was there all day and nothing went near it – birds and gulls would usually attack something lying there quite quickly,” he added. “Because it’s so rare, you wouldn’t think they would have evolved to be wary of it.”