Pufferfish Love to Love by Moonlight

Pufferfish spawn in the moonlight because of a specific pheromone, according to scientists at the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules of Nagoya University in Japan.

What to know:

  • The lunar cycle is key to reproduction of many species from wildebeest to pufferfish, which appear at the water’s edge by the thousands along coastlines around the world at the time of the spring tide and perform a writhing motion as they spawn.

  • Grass pufferfish have 125 genes involved in their spawning behavior, including genes crucial for reproduction.

  • The lunar cycle and its accompanying spring tide triggers receptors for the pheromone PGE2 in the pufferfish, indicating it’s time for them to spawn.

  • Known as “semilunar spawners,” spawning puffers actually release PGE2 into the seawater, triggering synchronized beach-spawning behavior.

  • The synchronization of reproduction has implications for humans because several of our cycles, including menstrual cycles, sleep-wake cycles, and manic-depressive cycles are synchronized with the moon’s cycle.

This is a summary of the article “A pheromone that explains why puffer fish spawn on beaches under moonlight,” published by Current Biology on October 28, 2022. The full article can be found on itbm.nagoya-u.ac.jp.

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