Bonjour, everyone. Jacques Custárd here to tell you about the latest news from the seas or, as we say in France, “the seas,” because we all speak English except when there are Americans around.
We begin our tour off the coast of Taiwan, where researchers have inadvertently netted five rare, glowing sharks. I say “inadvertently” because, judging from the pictures, there’s no way anybody would want to catch one of these on purpose.
They are called viper dogfish, and they are known for their spindly teeth, extendable jaws, and the ability to light up in the dark. The extendable jaws are used to trick prey. For instance, a fish might come along, wonder why that really ugly thing is lit up like a glowstick at a Spongebob Live! event, and swim over to investigate further. Then it would cautiously look into the creature’s mouth from a couple of inches a way–a safe distance, it stupidly thinks–when the dogfish’s jaw shoots out like the things on the game Hungry Hungry Hippo (I have grandchildren, you know) and the poor food fish is suddenly inside the dogfish’s mouth, saying, “Oh, shit!”
I should point out that, as gruesome as these fish look, they are of little danger to humans because their maximum size is only 20 inches and because, on the infrequent occasions when they are spotted near the surface, their condition–mostly dead– usually precludes them from attacking. Of course, there’s always the chance that a school of horrifying glow-in-dark, extend-a-jaw sharks could get swept up in a storm and rain down upon a U.S. city during a tornado. (Hey, great movie idea!)
We move on now to the lamprey, which many Americans think is an eel, but which is actually a fish, because Americans are morons. Lampreys can grow twice as long as a glowing viper dogfish (unless the dogfish’s jaw is extended) and have cool holes on their sides like a 1955 Buick.
But the best thing about the lamprey is its mouth, which always reminds me of the alien in the very first Star Trek episode (the first one broadcast, not the pilot, which was later made into a two-part episode where Spock looked weird).
The lamprey’s mouth is much more horrifying than the creature from planet M-113 because it has many more teeth (a function of the small production budgets of the original Trek), but it uses its mouth in much the same way–to suck stuff from its prey. In the case of the Trek thing, it was salt. In the case of the lamprey, it’s, well, just about everything. Here’s a really gross description of how it eats:
“The lamprey’s teeth hook onto its prey. It then grates its tongue against the fish to remove its skin so it can feed on its blood and body fluids. Studies have shown that lampreys also feast on all parts of a fish, from scales to flesh to bone.”
The lamprey also uses its suction cup mouth to latch onto other fish like an insurance salesman at a cocktail party. By glomming onto faster swimmers, the lamprey can get from one place to another at warp speed.
Our next stop is in the Atlantic Ocean, where an invasive species called the lionfish is taking over. The lionfish is native to the waters of the Pacific Ocean, but somehow got to the other side of America, possibly on a Jimmy Buffett tour bus. It was a worthwhile trip for the lionfish because it has no known predators in the Atlantic. And since female lionfish (which should be called lionessfish but aren’t) can spawn nearly 2 million eggs per year, there were soon a lot of lionfish in the Atlantic. Plus, they were spending their days killing all the other fish with their venom.
Humans simply had to step in and do something about the lionfish. And because many of the humans happened to be Americans, the obvious solution was to eat them. So chefs began creating lionfish recipes. But there was still a problem–the fish were difficult to catch, what with their poisonous spines and all.
Thank goodness Colin Angle was able to come up with a solution.
Angle is executive chairman of iRobot Corp, the company behind the Roomba robotic vacuum and dog toy. He is working on a similar device, except instead of dust bunnies, his new robot, called The Guardian, would suck up lionfish. Here’s his description:
“We basically drive the Guardian up to the fish, position it between two electrodes, apply a current and stun the fish, knocking the fish out. Then there is a motor at the back of the robot which creates a current into the robot and it sucks that fish into the robot.”
I imagine that soon, the Atlantic will be full of Guardian lionfish-sucking robots. Which could be a problem in itself, because they have no known predators.
See you soon.