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Science

First Recorded Observation of Freshwater Fish Preying On Birds In Flight 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the om-nom-nom dept.
ananyo writes "The waters of the African lake seem calm and peaceful. A few migrant swallows flit near the surface. Suddenly, leaping from the water, a fish grabs one of the famously speedy birds straight out of the air. 'The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen,' says Nico Smit, director of the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. After the images did sink in, he adds, 'the first reaction was one of pure joy, because we realized that we were spectators to something really incredible and unique.' Rumours of such behaviour by the African tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus), which has been reported as reaching one metre in length, have circulated since the 1940s. But this is the first confirmed record of a freshwater fish preying on birds in flight, the team reports in the Journal of Fish Biology (PDF)."
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First Recorded Observation of Freshwater Fish Preying On Birds In Flight

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  • by tomhath (637240) on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:43AM (#45917767)
    I've been using the wrong bait all these years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:49AM (#45917849)

    perhaps if the swallow had been unladen, it would have escaped

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Friday January 10, 2014 @01:07PM (#45918693)

      I will note that while TFA does identify the species of the bird (Hirundo Rustica), it does not clarify whether this was Hirundo Rustica Rustica, the European Swallow, or Hirundo Rustica Savignii, the non-migratory Egyptian Swallow.

      I feel this is crucial information to neglect.

      • by ericloewe (2129490) on Friday January 10, 2014 @01:22PM (#45918883)

        Do not worry. Those in charge of sacking those in charge of writing the article have been sacked and thrown into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

        If you wish, an alternate article is available, done at great expense by a mid-90s web designer, which is backed by a soothing mexican tune.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A King has to know these things

  • European, I guess, not African... guess those coconuts ARE heavy for a swallow, forcing them to fly close to the water!
  • The video quality is similar to those videos where some guy catches a yeti or more similar the Loch Ness Monster 'on video' - even when preconditioned to look for a particular occurrence, and in this case with a large arrow point at a particular spot, it's not possible to determine if the thing actually happened as described.

    Look at this bird? Uhh, it look like a fish to me.

    Upon further re-examination (sic), it could indeed by a fish eating a bird - or a bird-fish shape-shifter :S

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The video quality is similar to those videos where some guy catches a yeti or more similar the Loch Ness Monster 'on video' - even when preconditioned to look for a particular occurrence, and in this case with a large arrow point at a particular spot, it's not possible to determine if the thing actually happened as described.

      Yes, but did you hear that banjo! I never knew they could be so loud. Luckily my coworkers all think I'm nuts already.

  • by Demerara (256642) on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:59AM (#45917963) Homepage

    The article (sorry, TFA) says they witnessed twenty such catches per day. Yet the only video they captured was the one linked?
    [Strokes chin skeptically...]

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      Easier/quicker to see something than it is to see soemthing, get a camera up, focused, and running.

      That said, I've seen largemouth bass jumping up to grab dragonflies mid-air quite a few times. Doesn't suprise me at all that this happens, just cool they were finally able to document it on film.

    • Yeah, and at first they thought they had seen something unusual lol; then they saw nearly 20 per day. And when local fishermen told them that it happened, they didn't believe it.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 10, 2014 @01:05PM (#45918675) Homepage

      I take it you've never done nature photography in the wild of a unusual short duration event that's unpredictable in both occurrence and location? I have, and I'm impressed that they caught even one. (Doubly so since they weren't professional videographers.) Don't let what you see on TV lull you into a false sense of how easy it is.

      Nature photography in the wild is, IMO, one of the hardest and most challenging of all photographic disciplines.

      • by anethema (99553)

        Yeah I really enjoyed the behind the scenes stuff of the BBC Planet earth showing the sharks catching the seals.

        They aren't sure where/when/if it is going to happen, so catching the shots was tough.

        They had a cool high speed camera that was always recording, and when they hit the button to get their slow-mo footage, the video camera recorded 2 seconds BEFORE and 2 after they pressed it, otherwise they would never have been able to get the whole event.

        Pretty interesting.

        • They aren't sure where/when/if it is going to happen, so catching the shots was tough.

          And that's without the whole "bouncing around in big waves in small boat" part. :)

          As a photographer, the behind-the-scenes/making of episode was one of my favorites.

    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      The article (sorry, TFA) says they witnessed twenty such catches per day. Yet the only video they captured was the one linked? [Strokes chin skeptically...]

      Google Glass to the rescue?

  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Friday January 10, 2014 @12:08PM (#45918055) Journal
    Was the swallow carrying a coconut?
  • I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  • by feepness (543479) on Friday January 10, 2014 @12:14PM (#45918131) Homepage
    I was too busy frantically reaching for the mute button to silence your horribly loud banjo music.
  • by Infiniti2000 (1720222) on Friday January 10, 2014 @12:26PM (#45918253)
    I find it impressive for several reasons: the bird is moving fast, the fish is moving fast, and the refraction caused by the (moving)water/air boundary has to be accommodated by a fish with a brain the size of a politician's. This is so difficult, in fact, that I find it amazing the fish had ever developed this capability.
    • by cusco (717999)

      Did you see the TEETH on that damn thing? Holy crap. I can certainly understand why the bird probably never gets away.

    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      I find it impressive for several reasons: the bird is moving fast, the fish is moving fast, and the refraction caused by the (moving)water/air boundary has to be accommodated by a fish with a brain the size of a politician's. This is so difficult, in fact, that I find it amazing the fish had ever developed this capability.

      Fishes brains are wired to see "bird" but think "bribe".

    • This is so difficult, in fact, that I find it amazing the fish had ever developed this capability.

      Birds do the same in the opposite way: the bird is moving fast, the fish is moving fast, and the refraction caused by the (moving)water/air boundary has to be accommodated by a fish^H^H^H^Hbird with a brain less than the size of a politician's ...
      OTOH there is a well known fish who uses a beam of water to shoot down flying insects and then eats them from the surface.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archerfish [wikipedia.org]

    • by Lotana (842533)

      has to be accommodated by a fish with a brain the size of a politician's.

      Could someone mod parent as troll. Such hyperbolic, exaggerated comparisons are incredibly demeaning to the poor fish.

  • I remember the oudtoor mags running photos of a bass snagging a small bird in the '70s. Maybe it's a first in Africa or something, but it's old news on this continent.
    I've personally seen a bass come out of the water to grab a spinnerbait while it's still in the air.

    • by kekx (2828765)
      Maybe the pictures you saw were of saltwater fish? It says it's the first freshwater fish that they recorded.
  • Bass to it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday January 10, 2014 @12:34PM (#45918343)

    I've seen a Large mouth Bass catch a swallow in flight. It was only once... but we've often found them in their stomachs... as well as squirrels, chipmunks, once we found a dudes wallet (I have no idea why it'd eat that) My uncle. who's been a bass fisherman for 50yrs. has a favorite line "If Bass got as big as sharks I'd never go in the water"

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      once we found a dudes wallet (I have no idea why it'd eat that) My uncle. who's been a bass fisherman for 50yrs. has a favorite line "If Bass got as big as sharks I'd never go in the water"

      Probably for the same reason we find sharks with license plates and other random assortments.

      • Probably for the same reason we find sharks with license plates

        bah - they don't even get fishing licenses!

    • by cusco (717999)

      My grandfather used to tie hooks to mice that he caught in the barn and use them for bait for pike. My dad said that he watched a pike eat every duckling in a family when the mother decided to take them across the pond to escape a dog.

    • It was only once... but we've often found them in their stomachs... as well as squirrels, chipmunks, once we found a dudes wallet (I have no idea why it'd eat that) My uncle.

      Seriously? I don't know what I'd do if my uncle were eaten by bass.

  • You can learn more about the African tigerfish on the Encyclopedia of Life: http://eol.org/pages/206410/details [eol.org]
  • Maybe the fish just wanted a coconut?

  • Looks like we need a new idiom to replace "a fish out of water".
  • Although they are paddling and not quite flying yet our large mouth bass love baby ducks. I wonder how any baby ducks survive as they are so easy a meal for the bass.
  • Have a look at River Monsters Season 2, Episode called "Demon Fish" and you will see Jeremy Wade catch one of these frightening Tiger fish in Africa. There is also another episode in Season 3 called "Jungle Killer" about the Wolf Fish, which has known to leap out to attack its prey.
  • In Soviet Africa, fish hunt bird!

  • Documented in the Amazon and many other fresh water bodies long ago with the Dragon Fish a.k.a. Arowana which jump out of the water to catch insects, birds and bats.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_arowana [wikipedia.org]

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