How to Catch a Bird… If You’re a Fish | Summary and Q&A

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February 20, 2021
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How to Catch a Bird… If You’re a Fish

TL;DR

Tigerfish in a lake in South Africa have developed the unique ability to leap out of the water and catch swallows in mid-flight, using different tactics. This adaptation could be due to the lack of their usual prey fish in the artificial lake.

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Key Insights

  • 🖕 Tigerfish in a South African lake have developed the ability to catch swallows in mid-air, which is highly unusual for fish.
  • 💦 The two tactics used by the tigerfish are direct lunging from deep water and chasing from below the water's surface.
  • 🐟 The ability of the fish to compensate for refraction is crucial in determining their success in catching the swallows.
  • 🐦 The scarcity of prey fish in the artificial lake could be a reason for the tigerfish adapting to catch passing birds.
  • 🐦 The researchers are concerned about the potential risk of predation on the tigerfish by other birds, such as eagles.
  • 🪡 Further study is needed to understand the ecological impact of this unique interaction between tigerfish and swallows.
  • ⌛ Tigerfish in this lake spend three times as much time foraging for food compared to their counterparts in other habitats.

Questions & Answers

Q: How do the tigerfish catch swallows in mid-flight?

The tigerfish use two tactics: they either lunge directly at the bird from deep water or chase the bird from below the water's surface before leaping out to catch it.

Q: Why do the tigerfish eat swallows instead of their usual prey fish?

The lake these tigerfish inhabit is an artificial one with a scarcity of their usual prey fish. The swallows provide a supplemental food source for the tigerfish.

Q: How do the tigerfish compensate for refraction in water?

When light passes from air to water, it gets bent or refracted, making objects appear distorted. The tigerfish that can adjust for this refraction are able to accurately target the swallows.

Q: Are there any risks associated with the tigerfish leaping after swallows?

Yes, the researchers believe that other birds, such as eagles, could prey on the tigerfish as they leap out of the water to catch swallows.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Researchers observed tigerfish in a South African lake leaping out of the water to catch swallows in mid-air.

  • Two different tactics were documented: direct lunging from deep water and chasing from just below the water's surface before leaping.

  • The ability of the tigerfish to adjust for refraction in water determined their success in catching the swallows.

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