A Library of Puffer Fish DNA

The Indo-Pacific puffer fish
Jeffrey T. Williams/Smithsonian Institution

Some fish you can fry up in the pan, no questions asked. Others require a bit of research. Case in point: the puffer fish. Commonly known as fugu, some species contain toxins more deadly than cyanide. The Indo-Pacific puffer -- Lagocephalus cf. suezensis (pictured here) -- is among the more toxic. Ensuring that only the safe puffers make it to market is of concern to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has teamed up with scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) to create a library of puffer fish DNA. When a poisoning outbreak occurs, regulators can turn to the library to determine the exact species of puffer fish that was consumed and whether or not it was illegally imported.