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Species: Sphoeroides nephelus, Southern Puffer

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concave between eyes
snout long
upper body - small rosettes of pale dots, lower flank - row dark spots
prickles: variable amounts on body
no skin flaps
pectoral 14-15

Sphoeroides nephelus (Goode & Bean, 1882)

Southern Puffer

Body oblong, thick, inflatable; head blunt; concave between eyes; snout relatively long; nasal organ on each side a short papilla with 2 small holes at end; eyes high on sides of head; jaws are a strong beak composed of 4 fused heavy powerful teeth with a central suture on each jaw; a slit-like gill opening in front of the pectoral fin base; a single short- based dorsal fin at rear of body; a similar-shaped anal fin with origin under or behind last few dorsal rays; dorsal rays 8, anal rays 7; pectoral usually 14-15 (rarely 13); no pelvic fins; no spines in the fins; tail fin edge slightly rounded, with 10 main rays; tough scaleless skin, no skin flaps on back; prickles cover varying parts of body, sometimes absent.

Upper body brown; with large dark grey to black spots and many small rosettes of pale dots; lower side with a row of dark, rounded spots, that inside the pectoral fin the most intensely colored spot; sexually active males sometimes covered with red or orange spots about 1 mm in diameter.

Size: 26 cm.

Habitat: demersal on soft bottoms in bays and estuaries in hypo- and hypersaline waters.

Depth: 1-20 m.

The Carolinas to northern Brazil.

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  • Brackish
  • Hypersaline
  • Marine
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Sand & gravel
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
  • Soft bottom only
  • Submerged vegetation
  • Estuary
  • Mud
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Demersal
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves
Egg Type
  • Benthic
  • Data
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Extends South of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • Island (s)
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 26
Depth Range Min
  • 1
Depth Range Max
  • 20