Dive Key West territories and open your eyes to the colorful world of underwater life. Amid your scuba diving, you are sure to come across first hand encounters with fish of all shapes and sizes, even possibly including the Porcupine-fish. With the appearance of a miniature baseball bat, the porcupine does not impose a domineering presence. Even so, it is in fact a very dangerous fish. The name "porcupine-fish" comes from the resemblance of its pointy scales to the spines of a porcupine. Under normal, non-threatening conditions, these sharp spikes lay flat against the body of the fish. Only when the fish senses danger will it extend these sharp defense mechanisms to fend off any potential predators.
The porcupine-fish is actually part of the family of blow-fish since it takes on the same tendency to expand with water when threatened. This inflation of its body can double or even triple its size, making an effective statement to its enemy to back off. In this aggressive mode, the porcupine-fish takes on the shape of a circular ball with a diameter of up to 9 feet. Its spiked scales, when in full extension, point directly out in a vertical manner, making this fish a hard meal to go down if a bigger fish tries to swallow it.
If its predator manages to swallow it, the porcupine-fish's liver and organs contain highly toxic substances sure to make its consumer sick. Most animals who have eaten porcupine-fish once will not try it again.
Porcupine-fish generally make their homes in caves and holes of reefs in water depths ranging from 7 to 167 ft. Younger porcupine-fish sometimes can be found in open ocean drifting along in the refuge of aquatic plants such as the Sargassum weed.
For humane reasons, divers are reminded not to agitate porcupine-fish in order to see it puff up.