Some Catfish Easily Hunt on Land

Discussion in 'General Conversation' started by Tulcat, Apr 14, 2006.

  1. Tulcat

    Tulcat New Member

    Some Catfish Easily Hunt on Land
    Friday, April 14, 2006
    By Bjorn Carey

    You might think a catfish on land would fare about as well as an elephant on roller skates, but a new study reveals they slither around and adeptly catch insect meals.

    The finding helps scientists imagine how ancient fish made their first hunting trips ashore prior to evolving into land creatures.

    This study is detailed in the April 13 issue of the journal Nature.

    Puddle-jumping hunter

    These particular eel catfish, Channallabes apus, live in tropical swamps in Africa, where most of the water is confined to small, acidic pools.

    "There's probably more food traveling on land than in these small puddles of mud," said Sam Van Wassenbergh of the University of Antwerp in Belgium. "That's probably why this fish has specialized to go out of water to search for food."

    The catfish pick up speed in water and flop onto land, where their flexible vertebral column lets them move around like snakes. They also have a special organ for breathing air without using their gills, although scientists don't quite know how this works.

    In water, eel catfish suck in water to capture their prey. But because air is less dense than water, this trick is less effective when hunting on land, and these fish have developed a different approach.

    Once they find their terrestrial prey, usually a small beetle or insect, they lift their head and mash at the creepy-crawly with their mouth. The fish nibble at their meal until it's pinned against the ground and they can get a good grip on it.

    "They hold their prey firmly in their jaws and go back into the water where they can further digest it," Van Wassenbergh told LiveScience.

    Once in the water, the fish can do the normal sucking action to draw a meal deeper into its mouth.

    Ancient mobility

    Having a mobile neck is key for hunting on land — it allows the catfish to move its head up and down to stab at prey. Mobile necks are a feature usually reserved for land animals called tetrapods.

    Recent discoveries of early tetrapods, such as Ichthyostega and Tiktaalik, have revealed that these beasts had mobile necks, and Van Wassenbergh said his catfish study might provide insight to how these early land animals went after food.

    "It's hard to speculate about the behavior of fossils, but these animals had strong fins and a mobile neck, and I think there's a very good chance that these were also good terrestrial feeders," Van Wassenbergh said.
     
  2. TDawgNOk

    TDawgNOk Gathering Monitor (Instigator)

    Messages:
    3,365
    State:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    Very interesting find.

    Would be neat to see too.
     

  3. Tulcat

    Tulcat New Member

    I'm glad Flatheads don't do that, or I would have to pack a pistol when fishing ;)
     
  4. squirtspop

    squirtspop New Member

    Messages:
    968
    State:
    Glencoe, Arkansas
    Different kind of fish story for sure but really interesting. how big do they get?
     
  5. tanner

    tanner New Member

    Messages:
    321
    State:
    Somerset, Kentucky
    here's ya an eel catfish! :waaaht:
     

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  6. tanner

    tanner New Member

    Messages:
    321
    State:
    Somerset, Kentucky
    and another photo...
     

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  7. TeamCatHazzard

    TeamCatHazzard New Member

    Messages:
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    State:
    Illinois
    Wow thats pretty neat and interesting! Thanks for the post. Some ugly critters if you ask me:). Thats is really neat thought and would be cool to see!