We recently received this fish photo via our Facebook page: –


It came along with this message from Lee Roberts: –

“Hi, (I) found this puffer fish flapping in the surf at Brighton. Is it a starry pufferfish?”

I was able to reply (in the name of the Marine Life Society of South Australia): –

“Hi Lee, your photo has me intrigued. Australia has many toadfish species, but not many are thought to occur in SA waters at all. Gee, it looks very much like a starry toadfish, but I’m getting mixed messages from my reference books. We need to post this photo on iNaturalist for expert analysis. Please send through any additional information such as date, time, precise location. (Sent by Steve Reynolds)”

Lee’s response was, “Yes I think it’s too far south for this species and I have never seen them when diving here in SA.”

My response to Lee was, “I think that it is actually a Mainstay Puffer, Arothron firmamentum, sometimes also called a starry toadfish but it isn’t Arothron stellatus.”

Lee replied, “It was in the surf mid-way up the beach in Brighton 1 o’clock today.”

My response was, “Great thanks, Brighton beach, 1.30pm 29/7/18. I will post that on iNaturalist along with your photo.”

Lee added, “It looked healthy enough but couldn’t handle the surf. It was about 350mm long. What is iNaturalist and how do I join your group? I photograph and identify marine life with BSAC Adelaide.”

My response was, “Great, 350mm is the size for the small Japanese sub-species it seems. iNaturalist is a data base online for all creatures but has a special fish section that MLSSA uses. To join MLSSA visit www.mlssa.org.au  Join Us page. But I am sending you a membership application form here now.”

I posted Lee’s fish photo at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/14869039 and told Lee to “Check it out.” I later told Lee, “You’ve just done science a favour with your sighting.”

I was pleased to soon see that Mark McGrouther had agreed with my identification of the Mainstay Puffer, Arothron firmamentum on iNaturalist. Mark is the Fish Collection Manager at the Australian Museum and curator for the iNaturalist ‘Australasian fishes’ project.

“Sea Fishes of Southern Australia” by Barry Hutchins & Roger Swainston features a Starry Toadfish as Arothron firmamentum (but Arothron firmamentum should be a Mainstay Puffer).

“Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia” by Rudie Kuiter features a Starry Toadfish as Arothron stellatus and doesn’t feature Arothron firmamentum at all.

“Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia” by Rudie Kuiter features both a Starry Toadfish, Arothron stellatus and a Mainstay Puffer, Arothron firmamentum on the same page (422). It says that the Starry Toadfish, Arothron stellatus, is very widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific whereas the Mainstay Puffer, Arothron firmamentum is said to be widespread in south-eastern waters of Australia.

I have now posted Lee’s sighting with Redmap.

By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve was a keen diver, underwater explorer & photographer before illness struck. He is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

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