Careful: the relations are poisonous

An average-sized pufferfish has enough toxin in its liver to kill 30 people

It's refreshing to discover that our obsession with showroom homes and interior design has made not a jot of difference to seaside gift shops. Trade in frogs made from cockle-shells, annoying wind-chimes and "A Present from Blackpool" plastic lobsters still flourishes.

It's refreshing to discover that our obsession with showroom homes and interior design has made not a jot of difference to seaside gift shops. Trade in frogs made from cockle-shells, annoying wind-chimes and "A Present from Blackpool" plastic lobsters still flourishes.

Wholesale orders for everything that's tacky and tasteless for the home (available at a seaside near you) are holding up. So it's a shame that I am forced to destroy demand for one of the kiss-me-quick sellers' most enduring lines – the dried pufferfish.

Every resort emporium boasts at least a couple of these, usually floating at head level to snag unwary shoppers. The permanently inflated fish look curiously resigned, as if they had been told as tiddlers: "Eat up your seaweed, or you'll end up in a Bournemouth gift shop."

Who buys them? Certainly not fishermen, and not chefs either. They need the whole fish to prepare that deadly delicacy called fugu, a dish that can cost $200 and kill you. For fugu is made from the Japanese pufferfish, diodon holacanthus, whose liver contains a toxin 1,200-times deadlier than cyanide. For reasons unknown, an average-sized pufferfish has enough to kill 30 people.

Nearly 100 people are said to die annually in the Philippines and Japan from fugu poisoning. It's little wonder fugu consumption was banned in Japan for several decades. By law, the fish still cannot be served to the emperor. There's even a poem that says (in Japanese):

I cannot see her tonight I have to give her up So I will eat fugu.

Amazingly, it's still immensely popular. One Tokyo fish market rakes in $40 million every winter from fugu sales. All sushi chefs must be licensed to prepare it, and they use most of the pufferfish: apart from the fillets, the fins are served in hot sake, and the skin spices up a salad.

Those who tuck into the fish would probably be less enthusiastic if they knew puffers can close their eyes and make a crying sound, an experience some chefs find more upsetting than the thought that they might wipe out the evening's diners.

But even more disturbing is the fact that we have a great deal in common with the pufferfish. Researchers have been decoding the 365 million pairs of amino acids that make up puffer genes (surely proof that scientists do not waste their time on useless projects). According to my source, they are up to 97 per cent at the moment. Amazingly, they have found that three-quarters of the fish's genes are identical to those of a human being.

Does this destroy the whole theory of evolution, and prove we are actually descended from pufferfish rather than apes? Don't ask me. I only catch the things. But it makes you think twice about hanging a puffer in the bedroom to add a little ambience. It could be one of your relatives.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore