White Sand is Mostly Parrot Fish Poop

By Anupum Pant

Walking on the sparkling white sand on a sunny beach in Hawaii, sounds wonderful, right? Who’d even think, the white sand on Hawaii beaches, which people love walking on, is actually something that is excreted by a certain kind of fish called the Parrot fish…at least most of it – about 70% of it is poop.

Now, I suppose people walking on the beach must be all grossed out. But they shouldn’t be. It isn’t too bad after all. The sand (poop) doesn’t even smell like anything bad. It looks and feels completely fine. There’s actually no reason to be grossed out.

This is how it works…

The Parrot fish spends most of its time eating sea weed and polyps which grows on coral most of the time. When it tries to puck it off, thanks to the protruded mouth of a parrot fish, it scoops off a part of coral too. The coral and sea weed mixes and gets crushed in its throat.

The sea weed and polyps eventually get digested, while the crushed coral comes out as it is. As a result, it poops out the undigested  crushed coral.

Interestingly, in the process of taking off a chunk of coral and munching it, the parrot fish does two good things.

Firstly, it helps the coral in removing all the parasites and other things growing on it. The fish is considered to be a natural cleaner of corals. Had there been no parrot fish, corals would have died.

Secondly, the parrot fish does a great service to its own beak in this process. As a result, the beaks don’t grow too much.

The parrot fish eats a lot, and each one of them can produce about 100 kg of “sand” every year. It has been confirmed by scientists that about 70% of the sand that is present on all the tropical beaches has come out of the back side of a parrot fish at some point of time.

This is what a parrot fish looks like and this is how it poops out sand…

Bonus fact: Our planet is old and fresh water is less. So, it’s valid to say that all the water molecules that are there now have passed through something really bad, and there’s a high chance that all of it has passed someone’s urinary tract at some point.

Killer Whale’s Ingenious Trick To Kill Sharks

By Anupum Pant

Background

Although mosquitoes are much much deadlier, Great White Sharks no doubt are dangerous animals too. It seems as if there’s nothing this big fish fears. But even this deadly hunter gets hunted.

On the other hand, Orca or the Killer whale is a relatively cuter animal. Remember Free Willy? But to me, these seemingly cute animals are in fact shrewd hunters who like to torture their prey before eating it. They’ve learnt well the tricks of the trade. I feel they are a lot like crows. That is to say, they are extremely intelligent and learn by observing.

For instance, to make seals sitting on ice pieces fall down, the killer whales know a good trick. They make waves and make the ice sheet wobble. As a result, seals fall down. Similarly, by sneaking up, making bubbles to trap fish and by using other such methods, these genius hunters make sure they get their prey.

Also, like Daniel Kish, they use echolocation. But Orcas use it to locate the prey. Still, their intelligence doesn’t always work.

Orcas kill sharks and they know a really efficient trick to do it successfully. They flip the sharks upside down. Here’s how they exactly manage to have “Shark sushi for lunch”.

Tonic Immobility + Ram Ventilation

To kill sharks they employ this very ingenious trick. They cash in on Tonic Immobility. Ironically, Tonic immobility is a defence mechanism some sharks use. Tonic immobility is something that a number of animals use for different purposes. Mostly they do it for defence by faking death.

During this state, their breathing becomes very relaxed and they might look as it they are dead. For instance, lobsters become immobile when they are stroked on their backs. Sharks can be flipped and they become immobile (not always). Everyone knows how Possums do it – they play Possum.

Now, since some sharks can’t breathe when they stop moving, due to something called ram ventilation, they drown. And isn’t that perfect for our Killer!

The killer whale  flips the shark, puts it to sleep. The shark stops breathing and dies. Then the killer whale goes and rips apart the tongue and liver of the shark, because that is all it eats. All the other parts of the dead shark drop to the sea bed.

Even these uneaten parts don’t go to waste, the other sea creatures have the time of their life eating them. They probably thank the odd little habit of the killer whale – the habit of eating just the liver and leaving everything else.

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Bizarre Creature – The Tongue Eating Parasite

By Anupum Pant

Background

Firstly, if you are eating something, or you are weak at heart, then go away. It isn’t going to be a pleasant one today because we are going to look at a really bizarre, and probably one of the most grossest creature ever – The tongue eating parasite.

Not that it is really needed here, but in case someone comes searching for it, the scientific name of this isopod is Cymothoa Exigua. It is one of those very large group of animals that includes crabs and lobster – called Crustacean. This one lives in the ocean and is parasitic. That means this creature lives and benefits at the expense of the other, called the host (fish in this case).

Changing Sex

Protandry hermaphroditism: Another interesting thing about these isopods is that the adult males can turn themselves into females. When a creature changes sex from male to female, it is called Protandry. This changing of sex at some point in life is called Sequential hermaphroditism. So, the tongue eating parasite is a Protandric Hermaphrodite. But that isn’t even what we came here for…The main tongue eating part is coming…

The Life of Cymothoa Exigua

The life cycle of this parasite starts with these little ones attaching themselves to gills of, say a Snapper(or others). They enter the body of a fish through gills. When they mature inside, all of them are males. Later, since they are Protandric Hermaphrodites, one of these matured males turns into a female. During this time the males are still attached to the gill arches.

The male that turns into a female, goes to the base of the tongue of this fish and attaches itself to it. It feeds on the tongue and destroys it. Then the parasite attaches itself to the stub and starts acting as a prosthetic tongue!

If you are not in a mood to read, the woman in the video below explains it nicely.

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