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Science

Catfish Strands Itself To Kill Pigeons 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the step-away-from-the-water dept.
SternisheFan writes "In Southwestern France, a group of fish have learned how to kill birds. As the River Tarn winds through the city of Albi, it contains a small gravel island where pigeons gather to clean and bathe. And patrolling the island are European catfish—1 to 1.5 meters long, and the largest freshwater fish on the continent. These particular catfish have taken to lunging out of the water, grabbing a pigeon, and then wriggling back into the water to swallow their prey. In the process, they temporarily strand themselves on land for a few seconds. Other aquatic hunters strand themselves in a similar way, including bottlenose dolphins from South Carolina, which drive small fish onto beaches, and Argentinian killer whales, which swim onto beaches to snag resting sealions. The behavior of the Tarn catfishes is so similar that Julien Cucherousset from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse describes them as 'freshwater killer whales.'"
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Catfish Strands Itself To Kill Pigeons

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  • by Press2ToContinue (2424598) * on Sunday December 09, 2012 @01:49PM (#42234535)

    Here's catfish catching pigeons

    Makes me happy there are catfish in the world.

  • "Argentinian killer whales swim onto beaches to snag resting sealions" ... and humans: Bad day for a swim, man eaten by an orca killer whale [youtube.com]

    With a giant catfish I doubt it could not do the same to an adult, but perhaps a toddler unattended.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Argentinian killer whales swim onto beaches to snag resting sealions" ... and humans: Bad day for a swim, man eaten by an orca killer whale [youtube.com]

      Uhh that video on youtube isn't real.. it's an ad.

    • by Cwix (1671282)

      Lol that is a pencil ad.

    • by vivtho (834049)
      WRT catfish eating humans .... It's already happened ... Kali River goonch attacks [wikipedia.org]
  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @02:05PM (#42234715) Homepage

    In the process, they temporarily strand themselves on land for a few seconds.

    Not really stranding themselves, then, eh?

    Fish eating birds though... seems wrong, somehow...

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      I've seen the sterotypical scene of a momma duck and her babies floating out along behind her, touring the pond in the shallows....

      And then a big swirl, maybe a splash, and there is one less duckling in the parade...

      Only difference is these catfish are going where they don't really belong to do it. I'm assuming that the same species in other locations doesn't display the same behavior on a fairly regular basis...

      • by LourensV (856614) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @02:18PM (#42234819)
        I'd say this is like a cat leaping into the air to catch a bird, or an Osprey diving down into the water to catch a fish. Seems like many species happily leave their domain temporarily if there's food to be had. Still, interesting that these fish have picked up the idea (maybe it's the "cat" in their name?), and anything that gets rid of pigeons is a good thing :-).
        • I'd say the cat leaping into the air is not quite at the same level. The cat is in no danger of suffocating while up in the air. The catfish and and the bird are both going into a domain where they cannot "breathe".
          • I know for a fact that some species of catfishes - corydoras come to mind - can breathe air, absorbing oxygen through their gut. Can't say about this kind of catfish, though.

        • ...and anything that gets rid of pigeons is a good thing :-).

          But then we might run into a shortage of carrier pigeons.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          interesting that these fish have picked up the idea (maybe it's the "cat" in their name?)

          Yes, and similarly dogfish can bark and lick their balls.

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          Hmmph. No wonder google search is full of holes, the pigeons are being eaten.

      • by Palamos (1379347) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @03:09PM (#42235265)
        It's wrong to say that the catfish do not belong on land, they are known to cross land to move from pond to pond as they dry up and there is some evidence that they migrate, at least once in their lifetime. They usually leave ponds at night when it's more humid so it's not a well known phenomenon. Nonetheless, this is very interesting behaviour.
      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        I've seen the sterotypical scene of a momma duck and her babies floating out along behind her, touring the pond in the shallows....

        And then a big swirl, maybe a splash, and there is one less duckling in the parade...

        Only difference is these catfish are going where they don't really belong to do it. I'm assuming that the same species in other locations doesn't display the same behavior on a fairly regular basis...

        Birds gotta swim and fish gotta fly.

        • by Macgrrl (762836)

          Birds gotta swim and fish gotta fly.

          But they don't last long if they try.

          - Tom Lehrer, Pollution.

    • yeah it's usually the birds temporarily drowning themselves to catch fish
    • In the process, they temporarily strand themselves on land for a few seconds.

      Not really stranding themselves, then, eh?

      I was thinking the same thing. Many catfish can stay out of water for long periods of time. [wikipedia.org]

      Fish eating birds though... seems wrong, somehow...

      I've seen northern pike [wikipedia.org] eat ducks a few times and even a small dog once.

      • by the gnat (153162)

        I've seen northern pike [wikipedia.org] eat ducks a few times and even a small dog once.

        Is it sick and wrong that my first thought on reading this was, "I would pay at least $25 to see this happen"?

      • by pspahn (1175617)

        Of course, there are a number of "fly" patterns devoted to mimicking a bird. It is fairly common for those sport-fishing for taimen [wikipedia.org] to use a fly pattern resembling a bird with a broken wing, for example.

        There are plenty of bird-eating fish. At so many various points, fish are the ultimate opportunists. They eat what falls out of the shrubs and into the water, be it birds, rodents, insects, frogs... It's mostly the same to them.

    • by NFN_NLN (633283)

      Fish eating birds though... seems wrong, somehow...

      How about cows eating birds then?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXhElaGCZVU [youtube.com]

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Fish eating birds though... seems wrong, somehow..."

      I guess the pigeons shat one time too many on that fish's head.

      • What do you do if a bird shits on your car?

        Don't ask her out again.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          What do you do if a bird shits on your car?

          Don't ask her out again.

          There are people who pay good money for that sort of specialised service.

    • Its called a catfish for a reason but i guess that was pure luck in hindsight
    • Fish eating birds though... seems wrong, somehow...

      I had the same reaction the first time I saw a spider catch and eat a mammal (mouse). Predator and prey switched places.

    • by Turmio (29215)
      Fish eating birds is not that unusual.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_E4BUt1z8Y [youtube.com] for instance. Ducklings belong to pike's menu. I've witnessed a similar attack, too.
  • If the food is more plentiful at the water's edge than in the water then a better ability to temporarily leave the water to go after food could give a survival advantage.
    • Catfish already evolved the ability to cross mud flats between water bodies. The amount of time they spend out of the water here is trivial by comparison.

      However, I'm surprised the pigeons haven't learned to avoid the much larger animal very obviously moving through the shallows toward them. Pigeons are usually pretty good at avoiding predators, such as hawks, vehicles, and children. Good pattern recognition and very twitchy reflexes.

      • Then consider the example of catfish crossing mud flats. Presumably there's a reason to do this. (Why did the catfish cross the mud flats?) Let's say that there's a benefit in being able to move on land, from one body of water to another. Being able to survive longer out of water and being able to move better on land could both be good for survival. Both for the individual and for genetic changes which favour such abilities. Where might such genetic traits lead?

        As for the pigeons: It could be a vision p

        • [Note: I wasn't criticising the general idea of catfish adapting to more time out of water, just pointing out that this hunting isn't likely to contribute to it. I would expect other adaptation, to increase the success rate (I noticed that even when they get the bird underwater, it often can get free, that's a prime situation where small differences between fish probably make a big difference.)]

          Or it could be something else such as a preference to watch overhead more since that's where most predators come from. Seems reasonable since most of the time there not that many things ready to spring up out of the ground at you,

          However, they must deal with cats/foxes/etc, all of which are sneak/ambush predators. And I noticed in the video,

  • Well of course, the French have always been into the "country cuisine" of squab [wikipedia.org] and the like. I be interested to know what kind of wine, with their refined palate, these catfish are drinking?

  • This isn't really news. I'm pretty sure marine animals have learned to come up on land in search of food at least once or twice before in the past.
  • Reminds me of the killer carp from Dwarf Fortress. What'll we have next, stampeding hordes of elephant that can only be wiped out by flooding the surface with lava?
  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @03:26PM (#42235387)

    Replace river Tarn with River Tam (which looks almost identical in many fonts) and you get a bonus Firefly episode centering around River wandering through a city destroying birds.

  • This story originated on PLOS ( The public library of science ), my number one fave science site. Peer reviewed! http://blogs.plos.org/everyone/2012/12/06/prowling-catfish-catch-pigeons-on-land/ [plos.org]
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @03:45PM (#42235561)
    Gee, it's a CATfish. What did you expect? Had it been a toadfish, it would have been catching flies. (A French boarfish would probably take a stroll into the nearest forest to dig for some acorns.)
  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @04:04PM (#42235713)

    Why are linking to something on yahoo when this was published in an open access journal?

    Press releases for science are bad for everyone.

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0050840 [plosone.org]

    • Why are linking to something on yahoo when this was published in an open access journal?

      Press releases for science are bad for everyone.

      http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0050840 [plosone.org]

      Blame the submitter (me) for the confusion. I actually linked to Discover's take on the story, and copy/pasted from the Yahoo blog.

      The reason being... I am (at times) using an older version Android smartphone to submit stories to Slashdot. Discover.com (and other more sophisticated sites) uses some copy blocking tech that prevents my phone from copying and pasting the text. So I used the text from the yahoo blog and linked to it in the body of my story submission while linking to Discover.com's story.

      • by Goldsmith (561202)

        It's a cool story to share, nice submission. I'd like to see the editors here include links to scientific papers with the front page stories.

  • What I really wonder about is the reason that the pigeons don't move elsewhere.

    Is hygiene so important for them?
    Have they become oblivious to dangers by constantly exposing themselves to them (just look how close they come to humans in the city)?

    Or do pigeons who became smart by escaping (there is one such in the video) lead the other unknowing pigeons there for sport?

    Is it a mating ritual where the brave get all the girls?

    • They're just drinking. No need to read anything more into it. Why they don't see the threat of the catfish, I don't know. But why they are there in the first place is pretty mundane.

  • ... reproduced. And of those that were better at it than their parents reproduced. Fins became more leg-like.

    We've seen it all before right?

    Evolution just never stops does it?

  • Now if they can be engineered to live on land and adapt to city life.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Now if they can be engineered to live on land and adapt to city life.

      They already have. They're called cats. Where do you think the name "cat" came from? It can hardly be coincidence.

  • I had always been told catfish were "bottom feeders." I guess they're not, huh? Next thing you know, they'll grow legs and run up on land and catch squirrels and rabbits and the occasional, unsuspecting small dog.

    • I had always been told catfish were "bottom feeders." I guess they're not, huh? Next thing you know, they'll grow legs and run up on land and catch squirrels and rabbits and the occasional, unsuspecting small dog.

      Smaller catfish scavenge for most of their food but the larger ones get most of their meals hunting. If you want to catch a big Blue or Flathead Catfish the best bait is a live fish, Bluegill and Perch work well.

  • Not the catfish, but the killer whales coming up on land to snag prey.

    The whales' early ancestors lived in the sea and came up on land. Then they went back to the sea though still air breathers. Now they are starting to go back on land again. Will they evolve new legs or just wriggle along like snakes?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not the catfish, but the killer whales coming up on land to snag prey.

      The whales' early ancestors lived in the sea and came up on land. Then they went back to the sea though still air breathers. Now they are starting to go back on land again. Will they evolve new legs or just wriggle along like snakes?

      What you describe is terrifying... orca-sized meat worms sliming around beyond the beach hunting for seals. How do we stop the whales from evolving?

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Japan has been employing the solution covertly for about 26 years now and openly for a few centuries before that.

        Evidence suggests that a time traveler from the future arrived in Japan around 1547 and told the Japanese that they needs to construct boats to go out to the open waters to catch whale instead of being content with beached whales. The man was executed for impugning the local governor's honor but the idea implanted and it spread. In the 1570's the Japanese began going out to sea to catch whale and

  • bass eat ducklings. bluefish eat seagulls. sharks eat whatever.
  • Nope... we were fresh out of nightcrawlers when I caught this beast with the wife's mouthy parrot... mmmm, Polly want a fish hook?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A slashdot posting about a yahoo-article about a Business Insider article about a ... youtubevideo. Thats at least three unneeded, adinfested sites to get to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded

  • So if an eagle catches fish, and the catfish catches birds to eat, who wins?

  • Cats in whatever form have never been up to anything good ever. They are killing the one bird, people around the world love because they poop on the heads of politicians' statues.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Anyone who would prefer a pigeon over a cat has such severe psychological problems that they should probably be banned from the interwebz for life, in case they infect someone else.
  • One of several cartoons titled "Great moments in evolution" [oocities.org]

    Wherever he is these days, I hope Gary Larson sees this story and smiles.

  • by manwargi (1361031) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @11:19PM (#42238841)

    There are reports of catfish attacking humans as well. [telegraph.co.uk] From the sound of things, they'll eat anything they're big enough to attempt to eat.

  • Pretty soon, they will develop a taste for cats: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4wykeJBHdE&feature=youtu.be&t=34s [youtube.com].

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