One Fish, Two Fish, Little Red Fish Eats a Great Big Blue Fish

Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to bite off more than you could chew? Apparently, such behavior is appropriate among some species. Even so, it isn’t necessarily healthy, as this case shows:

A fish whose eyes are bigger than its stomach meets an untimely demise.

i-9d0731ff5ff15bd7c7839fa3a129690f-swallower.jpgDead fish floating on the surface of the water isn’t really an unusual sight, but when McPherson 'Dorson’ Wright ran across this one in the Cayman Islands, he was quite puzzled.

Mr. Wright said that normally one expects 'big fish to eat down the small fish",
but the hungry little fish broke that rule in a big way.

The fisherman hauled his odd catch back to the shore, where he turned it into the Department of the Environment. After a few calls to the States, the fish was identified as a "Great Swallower", probably a Chiasmodon niger, a fish that lives in the depths of our tropical oceans. C. niger is known for eating larger prey than usual, leading to a bulge around the belly. This conjures up images of snakes swallowing live animals, and indeed, like a snake, this fish can unhinge its jaw to accomodate large lunches.

Still, this one was one of the largest known:

The Great Swallower found off South Sound was just 7.5 inches in length. The
fish it had eaten, an extremely aggressive snake mackerel, measured 34 inches,
which is close to three feet in length.

The scientists at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, who identified the fish, have offered to have the fish shipped to the US for study.

Quotes and image via the Cay Compass News. I originally found a link to this story at Erica Henderson’s blog. Erica is an animation artist who seems to appreciate ironic freaks of nature like this fish... perhaps she’ll feature a great swallowing fish in her art someday.


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By Physicalist (not verified) on 21 Nov 2007 #permalink