This is a large fish (up to 60cm long), it is similar in shape to the Puffers. Like Puffer fish it can inflate its body with water and becomes the size and shape of a large football. When deflated the head is large and bony and the body is long and tapered. Unlike the Puffer fish, the Porcupine fish has large permanently erect spines on the body and head. This fish also contains the powerful nerve toxin tetrodotoxin (TTX) in its skin and intestines. The fish swims by rapid rowing movement of the small dorsal and anal fins assited by the tail. The gill opening is reduced to a small slit just before the pectoral fins. The body colour is grey-brown with a white bellyand irregular black-edged yellow patches on the back and flanks.
They are usually found singly over rocky reefs in 5-100m of water, someties thay can be found in small schools over sand bottoms or near the surface of open water. They are common in northern NZ, less so in southern NZ and can be found in southern Australia
It has fused teeth forming strong bony plates with sharp edges which are used to crush its mollusc, crustacean and echinoderm prey.
They have a strange molar shaped swim bladder (a buoyancy aid) which sometimes washes ashore. In some South Sea Islands the natives used to make helmets from the skins of a similar species for war dances.
Handle with care as the string jaws of larger specimens can remove fingers easily!
A Treasury of New Zealand Fishes: Graham
Collins Guide to the Sea fishes of NZ: Ayling & Cox