The puffer Takifugu niphobles is a top predator of hard-shelled prey such as molluscs; its predatory tactics may affect the evolution of prey coloration. Two hypotheses concerning its foraging were tested: (1) T. niphoblesshows frequency dependence in foraging colour-polymorphic prey, and (2) such dependence reverses in response to changes in prey distribution. Captive fish were provided with 70 artificial prey, coloured either dark brown or pale brown, at four frequencies (1 : 4, 2 : 3, 3 : 2, 4 : 1) and in two distribution patterns (uniform and aggregated). When prey were uniformly distributed, frequency and feeding rate significantly influenced colour preference: the common morph was consumed more. When prey were aggregated, frequency significantly affected preference only when the feeding rate was low, in which case the rare morph was consumed more. Thus both hypotheses were supported. The impact of T. niphobles's frequency-dependent predation and its reversal on the colour evolution of prey species, especially molluscs, is discussed. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 81, 197–202.