Sly, slimy, and scary—these three words perfectly describe what toadfish are.
Because of their strange-looking appearance and bizarre behavior, toadfish are one of the most intriguing marine life to ever exist.
Despite being known as bottom-dwellers, toadfish can also be found in near-shore areas.
In fact, you can find toadfish across the globe—from the Atlantic to the Pacific!
While there is an undeniable abundance of toadfish in the world, one simple yet important question should be answered first:
“Are toadfish poisonous?” But first, let’s get down to the basics!
What Do Toadfish Look Like?
Several kinds of toadfish are currently existing in the world right now – 52 different species to be exact.
It is easy to distinguish a toadfish from other kinds of fish because of their odd appearance.
Toadfish have broad flat heads and wide mouths with flaps or barbels around them. They are usually scaleless and, as the name implies, they have toad-like eyes. That is why toadfish are also commonly known as frogfish.
The adult toadfish can grow long anywhere between 7.5 centimeters to 50 centimeters in length. They are scaleless, covered in mucus-like substances, and some of them have poisonous spines coming out of their skin to protect themselves from potential predators.
As for their color, they like to mix it up. Some toadfish are brown in color but some dare to be unique; like the gulf fish that’s orange in color and the coral toadfish that has bright yellow fins with white and black stripe patterns on its head.
What Do Toadfish Eat?
In exchange for their peculiarity is their ability to survive in a hostile environment. Toadfish are ninjas! Silent but deadly. Calm but collected.
With their ability to camouflage, they satisfy their diet by preying on poor, unwary, clueless fish, mollusks, and worms that get past their ambush spots. They are patient predators and will wait for their meals to come to them. When an unsuspecting prey is within reach, they will vacuum it in with suction-like power using their wide mouth. The size of their meal depends on the size of their mouths. Some toadfish have small mouths while some have large mouths.
Toadfish dwell in the shadows of rock fissures, underwater vegetation, and dens in bottom sediments, waiting for their victim to come by.
How Do Toadfish Reproduce?
But despite being sneaky assassins, Toadfish are also romantic lovers! They attract females to mate with by “singing”. Toadfish “sing” by releasing gas through the contraction of muscles in their swimming bladders. This produces a vibrating phone-like sound called “boops”.
Boops are loud enough to sometimes reach the surface! Boops serve are signals for female toadfish to mate with male toadfish in their nests. The female toadfish will lay anywhere between 5,000 to 15,000 eggs which the male toadfish will then fertilize.
The offspring usually hatches within a day or so and they are on their own from that moment on.
For a silent and mysterious guy, that is some next-level talent and charisma!
Are Toadfish Poisonous?
Now for the main event! Despite its redeeming qualities, are toadfish poisonous? The short answer is yes.
Toadfish are known for having tetrodotoxin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tetrodotoxin is one of the most potent mainly found on livers or gonads of pufferfish, globefish, and toadfish.
As further stated in the report, their poison may have a rapid or delayed onset. Signs and symptoms might surface in the first 10 minutes up to the 6th hour of exposure. Fatality might occur as early as 20 minutes or as late as 48 hours. This means that it is not safe and advisable to try your chances.
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for tetrodotoxin for thrill-seeking adventurers. The CDC clearly stated that the cure for this type of poison is yet to be found.
In an independent study conducted in 2021 by Kotipoyina, Kong, & Warrington called “Tetrodotoxin Toxicity”, exposure to tetrodotoxin can cause the victim to experience gastrointestinal, neurologic, and cardiac symptoms.
Kotipoyina and her colleagues further pointed out that there is a drug called “anti-tetrodotoxin” available for public consumption. But as of the moment, there has been no study conducted on its efficacy yet. The researchers’ suggestions for the tetrodotoxin treatment are only respiratory support and intensive care until the toxin is excreted through urine.
It is truly remarkable how nature can stump our scientific advancements in the most simple ways—like finding the antidote for tetrodotoxin in the 21st century.
So next time you that you’ll travel, maybe in the Atlantic or the Pacific, and you accidentally come across a sly, slimy, and scary fish, you should now know the answer to the simple yet important question: “are toadfish poisonous?”
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