Thursday, September 6, 2012

Einstein and the Blowfish

It's official. I've started the process of applying to another school: Auburn University. Well, it's been official in my mind for quite awhile that I'm going to apply there. I guess I can say it's "officially official." You may be asking me why I'm doing this. Do I hate where I'm attending now? What's so bad about where I am that is pushing me to the point of applying to move multiple hours away? Let me assure you, oh, dear reader, I am not doing this out of malice towards the university I am attending presently.
I don't know how many times I'm going to say this, but, let me say it again, I'm currently a chemistry major whose future goal is marine biology. I've realized since my declaration of major that I'm here on this earth to study marine biology. Not chemistry. Not physics. Not whatever else you can put under my nose. Marine biology. And, let me tell you, the chemistry department is not the place to be for someone like me. Now I know this!
It's nothing personal toward chemists. Or the study of chemistry for that matter. I like the way the great scientist Albert Einstein puts it:

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb up a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Why try to say it when Einstein says it so poetically? I may be "good" at chemistry in some aspects (like in the classroom, usually), but when it comes to research and hands-on approaches to the science, I've learned that it is definitely not my cup of tea. Now that I have come to realize this, I can move on from it and try out some other things. I will repeat this cycle either until I get tired of it or until I find that one aspect of science that I know I'm made for. Who knows, it could be research, conservational work, tourism, education, etc. Maybe it could be a mix! That's for God to know and me to find out!
The pufferfish pre- and post-puff.
Let's get to the good part of the blog: the biology. Today's topic of conversation is the famous pufferfish, or blowfish as some may call it. This little fish is so cute when it isn't mad and territorial to the point where it puffs out its spikes at you in defense. All they do is just suck in a bunch of water, and voila, you have an angry-looking pufferfish telling you to get away or else. By the way, the terms "pre- and post-puff" in the caption I completely made up off the top of my head. They aren't scientific whatsoever. Far from it. But you get what I'm saying!
Pufferfish have a toxin that is usually lethal to fish. (Some marine animals aren't affected by the pufferfish toxin, such as tiger sharks and sea snakes. They're the lucky ones.) According to National Geographic, the toxin made in the pufferfish, called tetrodotoxin, is over 1,000 times more lethal to humans than cyanide. One pufferfish holds enough toxin to kill 30 humans. So that means, kids, don't touch these cute little things!...Or you will surely die. When I say surely I definitely mean surely. Why? Because there is no known antidote for the pufferfish's tetrodotoxin. Not every single species of pufferfish makes this toxin, so you have a small chance of living if you dare to test your luck.
Unlike a lot of the marine creatures I talk about, the pufferfish population is considered quite stable. Some species are vulnerable because of overfishing, loss of habitat, and pollution, but what animal these days isn't negatively affected by any of these 3 things? Not many, if any. 
Pufferfish language saying, "Get away!"
I have never seen one of these guys in their natural habitat, but I have seen them in tanks. Like in a few aquariums and at university marine labs. When I first saw them, they were much smaller than what I thought they would be. Maybe it's just me. Probably. And I don't know if the ones that I've seen were the smaller of the species. Anywho, the biggest they can get is about 3 feet, which is huge for a pufferfish.
This may seem obvious and I probably don't even need to mention this: it is not the best swimmer. Duh! If you were a big puff ball half of your life then you might not be able to swim too well either. Even still, they are capable of defending themselves extremely well. Yes, the pufferfish has its downfalls, but it can also kill 30 humans without breaking a sweat. (Okay, some can. Not all poisonous...) I respect them for that. So whenever I see one in the wild, I will observe from a safe distance!


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