European Catfish have developed a taste for pigeon. The 1.5 meter long fish — the largest in the continent — lunge out of the water to grab the feathery feast.
They are temporarily stranded on the gravel shore when they attack the pigeons, risking death for a meal. The finding was published yesterday, Dec. 5, in the journal PLoS ONE.
Ed Yong over at Discover’s blog Not Exactly Rocket Science talked to Julien Cucherousset from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse about the strange fish behaviours:
Alerted to the fishes’ behaviour by local fishermen, Cucherousset watched them from a bridge overlooking the island. Over the summer of 2011, he filmed 54 attacks, of which 28 per cent were successful.
Catfish get their name for the long, sensitive whiskers (or ‘barbels’) on their upper jaws, and the Tarn fishes would erect theirs when they were hunting pigeons. This, combined with the fact that only moving pigeons were ever attacked, suggests that the fish are sensing the vibrations of birds that approached the water.