Potentially Misidentified Species:
The burrfish or spiny puffers that make up the diodontid family are easily
distinguished from other tetraodontiform fishes by the presence of
conspicuous body spines. Within the family, the striped burrfish is
distinguishable from other burrfish by its color pattern and its fixed
erect spines; other diodontids in the region have spines that fold back
against the body when the animal is not inflated (Hoese and Moore 1977).
II. HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Chilomycterus schoepfii can be found as far north as Maine and Nova
Scotia, although it is uncommon north of North Carolina. To the south, it
occurs throughout the Florida coast and further south to Brazil. It is
common in the Gulf of Mexico and less common in the Bahamas and West Indies
(Breder 1922, Schwartz 1960, 1964b, Robbins et al. 1986, Monteleone 1992).
The Florida distribution of the striped burrfish includes the entire IRL system.
III. LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY
Age, Size, Lifespan:
Individuals can grow to reach a body length of 25 cm (Robbins et al. 1986).
Robbins et al. (1986) note that striped burrfish are very common in
seagrass beds in bays and coastal lagoons.
Information on courtship and spawning in Chilomycterus schoepfii is
scarce, but published work detailing the spawning behavior of the diodontid
Diodon holacanthus indicates spawning in the family may be
Spawning is thought to occur offshore but supporting evidence is lacking
(Maryland DNR undated).
Developmental details are sparse for this species. Whereas the eggs of
some diodontids (e.g., of genus Diodon) ar pelagic and buoyant,
those of Chilomycterus schoepfii are demersal but non-adhesive
IV. PHYSICAL TOLERANCES
Although Chilomycterus schoepfii as a species tolerates a broad
range of temperatures, temperatures of 5-7°C and below have been shown
to induce mortality (Schwartz 1964). Moore (1976) and Holt and Holt (1983)
report C. schoepfii among the fishes killed as a consequence of a
cold fronts that dropped water temperatures to freezing in Texas estuaries
in 1973 and again in 1982.
Juveniles and adults as large as 15 cm have been collected far upstream
within the Patuxent River, Upper Chesapeake Bay, where salinities are often
les than 15 ppt (Schwartz 1960).
Chilomycterus schoepfii may persist in water with a salt content of less than 7 ppt to
as much as 47 ppt (Maryland DNR undated).
V. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY
Striped burrfish are predators on a variety of benthic invrtebrates,
including crabs, shrimp, mussels, and miscellaneous crustaceans (Breder
1922). It is a predator of sea whip ( Leptogorgia virgulata )
epibionts such as the amphipod Caprella penantis within northwest
Florida Thalassia seagrass meadows.
Ralston and Wainwright (1997) state that C. schoepfii is a
specialist on hard-shelled prey.
The ability of puffers to take in water to inflate their body size is an
important adaptation to minimize the risk of predation, although some
predation certainly occurs.
The trematodes Prosorhynchus sp., Sclerodistomum sphoeroides,
and Diploproctodaeum plicitum are among the parasites known to
infest Chilomycterus schoepfii (Hutton and Sogandares-Bernal 1960).
Pearse (1947) also indicated that this species is also susceptible to
infestation by parasitic copepods, but did not provide details. Norris and
Overstreet (1975) report the nematode Thynnascaris reliquens from
C. schoepfii as well.
Striped burrfish are widely reported as coastal and estuarine sagrass
community residents (Orth and Heck 1980, Heck and Thoman. 1984, Robbins et
al. 1986, Sedberry and Carter 1993).
Southern puffers are primarily active by day, settling into sand bottoms at night (author's personal observation).
VI. SPECIAL STATUS
Arreola VI and MW Westneat. 1996. Mechanics of propulsion by multiple fins:
Kinematics of aquatic locomotion in the burrfish (Chilomycterus
schoepfi). Proceedings: Biological Sciences 263:1689-1696.
Breder CM, Jr. 1922. Notes on the summer food of Chilomycterus
schoepfi (Walbaum) . Copeia 104:18-19
Caine EA. 1983. Community interactions of Caprella penantis leach
(Crustacea: Amphipoda) on sea whips. Journal of Crustacean Biology 3, No.
Heck KL, Jr and TA Thoman. 1984. The nursery role of seagrass meadows in
the upper and lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 7:70-92.
Hoese HD and RH Moore. 1977. Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. Texas,
Louisiana, and Adjacent Waters. Texas A&M University Press, College Station
TX. 327 p.
Holt SA and GJ Holt. 1983. Cold death of fishes at Port Aransas, Texas:
January 1982. The Southwestern Naturalist 28:464-466.
Hutton RF and F Sogandares-Bernal. 1960. A list of parasites from marine
and coastal animals of Florida. mTransactions of the American Microscopical
Society 79:287 -292.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Undated. Maryland Fish
Facts: Striped burrfish. Available online.
Monteleone DM. 1992. Seasonality and abundance of ichthyoplankton in Great
South Bay, New York. Estuaries 15:230-238.
Moore RH. 1976. Observations on fishes killed by cold at Port Aransas,
Texas, 11-12 January 1973. The Southwestern Naturalist 20:461-466.
Norris DE and RM Overstreet. 1975. Thynnascaris reliquens sp. n. and
T. habena (Linton, 1900) (Nematoda: Ascaridoidea) from fishes in the
northern Gulf of Mexico and aastern U. S. Seaboard. The Journal of
Parasitology, Vol. 61, No. 2 (Apr., 1975), pp. 330-336.
Orth RJ and KL Heck, Jr. 1980. Structural components of eelgrass
(Zostera marina) meadows in the lower Chesapeake Bay: Fishes.
Pearse AS. 1947. On the occurrence of ectoconsortes on marine animals at
Beaufort, N. C. The Journal of Parasitology 33:453-458.
Ralston KR and PC Wainwright. 1997. Functional consequences of trophic
specialization in pufferfishes. Functional Ecology 11:43-52.
Robins CR, Ray GC, and J Douglas. 1986. A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast
Fishes. The Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 354
Schwartz FJ. 1960. Recent additions to the Upper Chesapeake Bay fish
frauna. Chesapeake Science 1:210-212.
Schwartz FJ. 1964. Effects of winter water conditions on fifteen species of
captive marine fishes. American Midland Naturalist 71:434-444.
Schwartz FJ. 1964. Fishes of Isle of Wight and Assawoman Bays near Ocean
City, Maryland. Chesapeake Science 5:172-193.
Thresher RE. 1984. Reproduction n Reef Fishes. TFH Publications, NJ. 399 p.
J. Masterson, Smithsonian Marine Station
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Page last updated: October 1, 2008