The Last Thing The Mosquitofish Saw

By Carl Zimmer | November 7, 2009 2:08 pm

Peter Wainwright and his colleagues at UC Davis study the weird ways in which fish eat. Two years ago I wrote about their creepy work on moray eels for the Times here. Now they’ve got a Youtube channel for their surreal films. Mick Jagger, meet the Red Bay Snook. And Mr. Mosquitofish, meet your doom. (h/t Jonathan Eisen)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: General, Writing Elsewhere

Comments (11)

  1. Peter showing these videos in our “Biodiversity and the Tree of Life” class at Davis yesterday was quite fun.

  2. I have a lot to say about this video, but I don’t want to carp on it. 😉

  3. Is that video real time or slowed down? I can’t tell and it doesn’t say.

  4. Wonderer

    The title threw me off… I thought it would be about a fish that sucks blood. Now I’m wondering… is there such a fish? It seems like that would be an equally opportune niche in the ocean as it is on land.

  5. Having shot a fair bit of high-speed video, I’m almost certain that is the case there.

  6. Confirmed from original at YouTube:

    High-speed video (500 frames/sec) of Petenia splendida, a Central American cichlid, suction feeding on a live mosquitofish.

  7. Daniel J. Andrews

    I’ve seen similar suction type feedings in other fish (bass). It happens so fast you can’t really see what happens. There’s the prey and suddenly its gone.

  8. The accordion-like unfolding of the fish’s mouth is incredible! What an amazing evolutionary feature–I wonder if it minimizes disruptions in the water allowing the fish to scoop up prey. Any one have any ideas on this?

  9. I was thinking more that the accordion structure just allows the predator to suck in a little bit more of the water surrounding its prey and make it harder to escape.

  10. Carl Buell

    Actually, the mosquitofish saw a whole lot more before it actually ceased to be. Swallowed alive, the mosquitofish witnessed the whole upper gastric track of the Red Bay Snook pass by before it’s lidless eyes stopped functioning as they began to be dissolved by the acid in the Snook’s stomach.

  11. Check out the video stats on Youtube. It is up to 170,000 hits – seems as though it went from me tweeting about it -> Zimmer blogging about it -> a few papers picking it up -> some Asian news web sites picking it up -> 170,000 hits. (see for a bit more detail on the history)


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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