Fish prefer to eat indoors – they feed on their prey in water – but amazing new images show that a moray eel can grab and swallow their victims on dry land.
The brightly colored chord is able to deliver this amazing feat thanks to an extra set of jaws in its throat.
After years of effort, researchers at UC Santa Cruz were able to train snowflake moths to wriggle out of the water to grab a bite, showing they’re quite adaptable when it comes to landing a meal.
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Researchers at UC Santa Cruz trained seven snowflakes to slide out of the water, grab a slice of sashimi and swallow it with their secondary “pharyngeal” jaws. It is the first known specimen of a fish that can feed on land without depending on water
All moray eels have ‘pharyngeal jaws’, which are a second set of jaws nestled in their throats.
The eels bite their prey with their primary ‘oral’ jaws and then suck it into their esophagus with their inner pharyngeal jaws, which pop out briefly.
The eerie action has drawn comparisons to the terrifying secondary mouth of the Xenomorph from the Aliens movie franchise.
In a study published this week in The Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers explained how the snowflake walls use its pharynx to feed on dry land.
“Most fish really need water to eat,” said lead author Rita Mehta, an ecologist at UC Santa Cruz’s Institute of Marine Sciences, in a statement. statement. “This is the first example of a fish that can feed on land without being dependent on water.”
Mehta had received reports of snowflake walls reaching out of the water to feed in the wild, but wanted to observe the phenomenon in the lab.
“These particular moray eels tend to eat hard-shelled prey, such as crabs, and I’d see reports in the literature of them coming out of the water and lunging for crabs,” she said, “but it was unclear what happened next.” happened.’
A carnivorous snowflake moray eel crawls up a slope to bite into a piece of sashimi with its primary ‘oral’ jaw. The eel then yanks the tasty morsel into its esophagus with its secondary jaw secundaire
Other fish are known to flirt with an amphibious lifestyle, such as mudskippers, “which come out on the mudflats” and grab prey like small crabs and insects,” Mehta said.
But mud divers “cheat” by holding water in their mouths to swallow their meals — according to Mehta, snowflake walls don’t have to deal with all of that.
“Once the moray eel has captured prey in its oral jaws, the pharyngeal jaws grab the prey again and move it further back into the esophagus.”
The snowflake walls’ secondary jaw has been compared to the terrifying Xenomorph in the ‘Aliens’ movies
But verifying the behavior with footage was no small feat: It took Mehta’s team more than half a decade to train seven snowflakes to slide down a slope, grab a slice of sashimi, and swallow it before sneaking back into the water.
“They feel safer in the water, so at first they just grabbed the fish and went back in the water with it,” she said.
Finally, they captured the stunning behavior on video, showing that at least one species of moray eel can “use very different environments for food sources,” she said.
Snowflake walls, which can grow as long as 40 centimeters, are named for their mottled black, yellow and white color. They are widespread in the Indo-Pacific region and can also be found in the eastern central Pacific from Mexico to northern California
Snowflake walls, which can grow as long as 40 centimeters, are named for their mottled black, yellow and white color.
They are widespread in the Indo-Pacific region and can also be found in the eastern central Pacific, from Mexico to Northern California.
The carnivorous fish lives at depths between 10 and 100 feet and enjoys shrimp, krill, and octopus, among other things.