Stories tagged fish

Feb
24
2009

Don't like the face?: Wait until you see the rectal pouch.
Don't like the face?: Wait until you see the rectal pouch.Courtesy Brauer, A.
Welcome to another edition of “Add it to the list!” Buzzketeers. Or… is this the first edition? It feels like “Add it to the list!” has been a regular feature on Buzz for a couple years now, but, then again, I’ve been suffering from frequent and vivid waking dreams lately. So I might not be the best judge of what “actually exists” (to quote my therapists) right now.

Whatever.

As you possibly know, here on “Add it to the list!” we feature an animal, theory, vegetable, etc. that disgusts me or blows my mind. Such objects and constructs must be added to the list. That way I can keep mental tabs on them. And when the revolution comes, I’ll be able to sort all listed items into the “first against the wall” and “promotions all around” categories with confidence.

Previous items on the list (which may or may not have been featured on Buzz, and may or may not be featured in the future) include electric eels (tagged “Not actually an eel”), hagfish (tagged “Keep your lips off that thing!”), Schrödinger’s Cat (tagged “Please don’t say ‘quantum’ when I’m in the room”), and anglerfish (tagged “nobody wins the battle of the sexes”).

You get the idea, I’m sure.

So what do we learn today? Well, The Telegraph has alerted me to the existence of the barreleye fish. It seems that this singular creature has tubular shaped eyes to gather all available light in its native deep-sea habitat. Do you know what other light-gathering adaptation it has? A freaking see-through head!

OMG! These deep-sea fish! Somebody add that thing to the list!

Check it out:

It was thought that barreleye fish could only stare straight up, so that they might catch the silhouettes of prey swimming above them. Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, however, have recently observed the fish looking forward. Seeing a fish looking forward is hardly big news, I suppose, but… it’s sort of looking through it’s own head, you know? Yuckers.

Also, some species of barreleye have bioluminescent internal organs (their guts glow). And one species has a glowing rectal pouch.

I’m not sure if this fish is first against the wall, or deserving of a promotion, but, either way it must be recognized and dealt with. So, for glob’s sake, add it to the list!

Jan
30
2009

Into flow charts?: This is a flow chart of a relationship. Start at the bioluminescent spike, and end at the parasitic gonads.
Into flow charts?: This is a flow chart of a relationship. Start at the bioluminescent spike, and end at the parasitic gonads.Courtesy steev-o
It’s Friday (T.G.I.F.), Buzzketeers, and you all know what that means. That’s right, it’s time for the Science Buzz Friday Relationship Extravaganza! (S.B.F.R.E.)

I know how much y’all like relationships, and how much you like talking about them, so it’s only natural that you clicked on the S.B.F.R.E. so quickly. But that’s not all! See, here at the S.B.F.R.E., “relationship” is also a code word for… S-E-X! Oh, naughtiest of naughties! It’s a red-letter day! Relationships and S-E-X-ual science… y’all had better sit down.

Seriously, sit down. Make yourselves comfortable. Now, I want y’all to know that this is a safe space, and we should be free to say whatever we’re feeling. Good, good… I think we’re about ready to start.

So… I understand that you feel like he has some real problems in communicating his feelings?

Why do you think that is?

No, I’m sorry, let’s let him finish—we’ll all have a chance to talk, and it’s his turn right now.

OK. I think I see what you’re saying. How do you want him to communicate? What do you wish he would say to you?

And how does that make you feel? Is that something you can do? OK… Why do you think you’re not being listened to?

I see.

Well, let’s look at it this way: at least y’all aren’t anglerfish. You know anglerfish, right, Buzzketeers? Anglerfish include those awful deep sea fish, with the big eyes, and teeth all over the place, and a glowing spike sticking out of their awful, lumpy heads. You know what I’m talking about. You saw those pictures, and then learned that they were only a few inches long, but were still kind of grossed out. And maybe some holier-than-thou biologist type pointed out to you that they weren’t gross, they were just fish that had made some spectacular adaptations to their environment, and were just living their lives like every other animal.

Well, don’t worry, you were right in the first place: angler fish really are awful and gross.

See, when they first discovered these creepy anglerfish, scientists were only finding female specimens. No males at all. So where’s the relationship relationship?

Well, eventually they did find some males, and some remarkable observations were made. The male anglerfish were pretty normal in their youth, but once they reached sexual maturity, their digestive systems degenerate. So they are unable to feed themselves. Naturally, what a mature male needs to do at that point is find a sugar momma. And fast (because, again, they’re starving to death). When the male tracks down a female anglerfish, he bites her, latching on to her body with his teeth. Enzymes in the male then break down its own mouth, as well as the female’s body, so that the two fish fuse together, to the point where they even share blood vessels. A source of sustenance now secured, the male kind of “lets itself go,” if you will. But instead of gaining weight and watching too much TV, the body of the male anglerfish, still fused with the female, degenerates, eventually becoming just a pair of gonads that hang off the female. When the first female anglerfish were discovered, scientists thought that they had parasites hanging off of them. Nope. Those were the remains of male anglerfish.

When the female is ready to release eggs, the gonads sense the change in hormone levels in the blood that still flows to them, and they release sperm, so that the eggs can be fertilized, and more horrible anglerfish can be created.

I don’t know who has it worse here—the female that has to nourish a pair of parasitic testicles (or multiple pairs), or the male, who has to latch on to a female to survive, and then becomes a pair of parasitic testicles. Either way, though, I think you’ll agree that your own messed up relationship seems pretty ideal right now, doesn’t it?

So remember, until the next Science Buzz Friday Relationship Extravaganza, keep your emotions bottled up, and if you’re ever feeling bummed out about things, just think of the never-lonely anglerfish.

Oct
09
2008

This catfish is a small one: And it still wants to eat you.
This catfish is a small one: And it still wants to eat you.Courtesy Andyrob
The title of this post might be more accurate if it were something like “Mutant, man-eating catfish: probably not real,” but that one doesn’t thrill me so much. A lot of stuff has been spilled, leaked, excreted, and written on the Science Buzz’s cryptocouch of cryptozoology, but none of it looks like “probably not.”

So get a load of this: goonch catfish in the Kali River, which separates India and Nepal, are rumored to have developed a taste for human flesh and some locals think that they are now targeting human swimmers as prey! Whoa!

Bagarius yarrelli, or the goonch catfish, will commonly grow to a length of around 6 feet, and may weigh over 150 pounds. The story has it, however, that a particular goonch (or goonches) have grown exceptionally large off of a rich diet of partially burned human corpses thrown into the Kali River with the remains of funeral pyres. Not content with the charred leftovers of this nutritious delicacy, the goonch (or goonches) has been seeking out fresh meat.

Over the last twenty years, there have been a multitude of cases of bathers being pulled beneath the surface of the Kali, never to reappear. The most recent reported case involved an 18-year-old Nepali being dragged down into the river by something looking like “an elongated pig.” (Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up! Catfish can look like “elongated pigs,” okay?)

Isn’t that awesome? Mutant, man-eating catfish? Pretty sweet, especially if you don’t live by the Kali River.

Heck, I’d say you could stop reading now, if you want. I’m just going to go over a couple other points, which I think are more or less incidental. Not. Worth. Considering. Everything is so cool as it is, why would you want any more?

So. The mighty, carnivorous goonch… Mighty indeed is the goonch—the current world record holder comes in at 6 feet and 161 pounds, and this site claims that goonch weighing between 300 and 400 pounds can be observed in areas where fishing is not allowed (and, presumably, these are un-mutated specimens). “Carnivorous” is accurate too, although, well… generally B. yarrelli is thought to feed on aquatic insects, smaller fish, and prawns.

To describe the huge catfish as “mutants” might be a little sensationalistic too. Technically, to be a mutant something has to have a new genetic characteristic. To the best of my knowledge, eating people shouldn’t actually cause your genes to change. Unless those people were radioactive, or something, but in that case you’d probably just get cancer, not grow really big.

And there’s one other thing, one tiny little thing. I noticed that many of the websites for Kali River resorts and lodges (Bip, Boop, Bip) mention that large crocodiles can frequently be spotted in the water. But, you know, just because there are crocodiles around, and crocodiles have been known, on occasion, to pull people into the water and eat them, and people in this particular river have been pulled into the water and probably eaten… that doesn’t necessarily mean that crocodiles are responsible. Really, it could be anything.

Like, maybe, mutant, man-eating catfish.

Jul
22
2008

"Doctor Fish": The hand will be skeletal inside of three minutes.
"Doctor Fish": The hand will be skeletal inside of three minutes.Courtesy Nemo's great uncle
I pride myself in my ability to scoot along the greasy razor edge of what’s cool at any given moment. Like right now this is cool: Tentacles. And…now collecting vintage Booberry, Frankenberry, and Count Chocula boxes is cool. And now tentacles are cool again.

It amazes me, then, that this new wave splashed right by me: foot flesh-eating fish. Or, really, I suppose they’d eat flesh from anywhere, but what they’re getting is foot flesh. But how could I have missed this for so long? I mean, Tyra Banks, Eastern Europe, and big chunks of Asia are already all about flesh-eating fish. Sure, Tyra Banks is a little wiser than most people, and I can’t remember a time when Eastern Europe wasn’t dancing on the cutting edge, but that doesn’t mean I have to feel good about it.

So, what we’re dealing with here, to go back to the very beginning, are little carp, Garra ruffa. The carp are native to rivers across the Middle East, and are kept and bred in outdoor pools in Turkish spas. Why? Because they swarm people and eat the dead skin off their bodies.

Take a look.

The fish eat skin because food can be scarce in the warm pools they live in, and because their little jaws are toothless, they’re only able to eat dead skin.

Apparently dead skin isn’t very cool. (I have a feeling that it’s going to be the next big thing, though.) If you’ve got some dead skin on your feet that you’re afraid people will see, there’s a foot fish spa near D.C. The fish are also recommended as an alternative treatment for psoriasis, but you might have to cross an ocean to get to a pool full of psoriatic plaque-gulping fish.

The circle of life. Fantastic.

Jul
02
2008

Who will be next to go?: The greatest loss of marine diversity is due not to habitat destruction, but clerical error.
Who will be next to go?: The greatest loss of marine diversity is due not to habitat destruction, but clerical error.Courtesy mattneighbour

No, not extinct. Just re-named. See, a species can have lots of common names -- for example, groundhog, woodchuck, marmot, ground squirrel, and annoying little beggar who keeps digging up my garden -- but only one scientific name -- in this example, Marmota monax.

But it seems the researchers who go about naming marine species got a little carried away, giving more than one scientific name to a single species. Sometimes it was an honest mistake. Sometimes it was due to individual members of the same species taking on widely different forms, fooling researchers into thinking they were separate species. And sometimes it was due to “splitters” – taxonomists who seize on any tiny difference to declare a new species.

But a new survey of all named sea creatures has found that 31% -- some 56,000 so far – are, in fact, duplications. Some invertebrate species had as many as 40 different scientific names. More duplicates are sure to be uncovered, as the project is only about half-way done.

You've probably never thought about this before, but catfish and soccer balls don't mix well. Read this to find out why.

Jun
20
2008

Since 2005, an ebola-like virus has been killing fish in the Great Lakes. A major die-off was recently reported near Milwaukee, affecting some 30 species. While the disease does not affect humans, it could devastate sport and commercial fishing in the region. Though the disease has not hit Lake Superior yet, it is starting to spread out from the Great Lakes region, thanks to infected fish swimming into rivers and streams.

Okay, make your guess. Is the world record for flight by a flying fish 10 seconds, 25 seconds, 45 seconds or 1 minute and 10 seconds? Watch this video to find out and see the fish in action.

Minnesota's fishing opener is a little over a week away. But if you're interested in catching some really big fish, you might want to go to Southeast Asia. Recently nabbed in rivers there were a 14-foot freshwater stingray and a 650-pound catfish, which is about the same size as the average black bear. Click on each link to see photos of these enormous fish.