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Who’s a Spiky, Smiling Photobomber? Meet the Spotbase Burrfish

Image: Spotted Porcupinefish
A diver looks at a spotbase burrfish underwater in the Red Sea, Egypt. ANDREY NEKRASOV / Barcroft Media via Landov

The photogenic deep-water charmer that looks like a cheerful porcupine has been ID-ed as a spotbase burrfish by the Australian scientist who first described the globed species in 1982.

The spiky photobomber, a member of the family of porcupine fish, made an appearance during a night-time underwater dive in the Red Sea last November, and was photographed by Ukrainian lensman Andrey Nekrasov.

Jeff Leis, a fish expert at the Australian Museum in Sydney, identified the fish by photograph in an email to NBC News. According to his original description of the species, Cyclichthys spilostylus, the animals have a single spine between their nostrils and three spines each above their eyes. And plenty of others elsewhere, too.

Like pufferfish and other prickly species within the order of tetraodontiformes, burrfish lurk solo near reefs and wreks and prey on small, shelled fish, which they can bite into with fused front teeth. They've been found in Asian and Pacific oceans, from the Red Sea, to the coasts of Australia, the Philippines and Galapagos.

The fish in this photo appears to have a camera-ready grin, but the puffing action is one of alarm, triggering the animals to gulp down water — or air — into a pouch in their stomach.