Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Oh so you think YOUR life is tough?

SHOOT: Imagine being born into a world where your baby brothers and sisters literally eat you as soon as they grow teeth, and if you're too good to eat them. But it gets better. If you survive to become a cannibal par excellance, you grow your own poison, and you're able to inflate yourself to many times your original size. If that doesn't put some idiot carnivore off eating you, then they die a miserable death by asphixiation if they do. Unless you're unlucky enough to find yourself on the menu at a Japanese restaurant of course.
To die for (Image: Norbert Wu/Minden Pictures/FLPA)

If you were looking for an animal to take the title of "most kick-ass fish in the sea", then the tiger puffer would have to be a strong contender.

Not only is it lethally poisonous – though that doesn't stop people trying to eat it – and able to scare off predators by inflating itself to become much larger than normal, when it is young it munches on its own brothers and sisters.

The researchers noted that the baby fish had a "relatively small gape size", so rather than swallowing their brothers and sisters whole, they would bite chunks out of them. Despite this limitation, the cannibalistic fish caused plenty of deaths – up to 12 per cent of the deaths that happened in the lab each day.

Those fish that grew fast enough to be able to gorge on their fellows had an advantage. The extra food accelerated their growth and development still further. Cannibal fish are likely to be faster and more agile, and so deal better with predators.

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