Mystery pufferfish create elaborate circular nests at mesophotic depths in Australia

Todd Bond, Robert J. Mueller, Matthew J. Birt, Jane Prince, Karen Miller, Julian C. Partridge, Dianne L. McLean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In 2011, the enigma of “mystery circles,” small but complex underwater structures first observed by divers from southern Japan in 1995, was solved when a new species of pufferfish, white-spotted pufferfish (Torquigener albomaculosus Matsuura 2014), was identified as the responsible agent. To date these circles have been described only from Japan, where they are formed on a sandy seafloor in water depths less than 30 m. A survey of oil field infrastructure on the North West Shelf of Western Australia in 2018 using a remotely operated vehicle and hybrid autonomous underwater vehicle (HAUV) recorded a high-resolution video and bathymetric data of 21 circular formations with similar features to those described in Japan. The circles display dimensions and morphology like those described from Japan, but were observed in water depths between 129 and 137 m. The HAUV also recorded high-resolution photographs which captured a Torquigener sp. fish in the immediate vicinity of the circles. An additional circle and Torquigener sp. were observed in images collected by baited remote underwater stereo-video in a nearby location in 129 m depth. These circles are the first to be found in Australia. The pufferfish species responsible cannot be identified from images collected. Such a discovery not only generates intrigue and wonder among scientists and the general public but also provides an insight into the reproductive behaviour and evolution of pufferfish globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1401-1407
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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