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Catfish Strands Itself to Hunt Pigeons

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catfish, predation, biology, non-native species, pigeonsThose who doubt the power of learned behavior and evolution would be wise to watch this video. A group of European catfish in France have been documented stranding themselves briefly on the shoreline in order to grab pigeons, only to return to the water and devour their kill. Along the River Tarn, near the city of Albi, pigeons stop at the shoreline to drink water and bathe. The catfish, a non-native species first introduced in 1983, have flourished in the area, decimating the smaller fish population, before turning to the beach for food.

Alerted to this unique predatory behavior by local fishermen, Julien Cucherousset of Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse observed them from a bridge overlooking the island. During the summer of 2011, he documented 54 attempted attacks, 28 percent of which were successful for the catfish.

Cucherousset and his research team noted that only moving birds were attacked. This suggests that the fish sense the vibrations of the pigeons approaching the water. No word yet on whether or not the catfish were seen moving their way up the food chain.

Video: Cucherousset, et al
Image: Cucherousset, et al
Source: Cucherousset J, Boulêtreau S, Azémar F, Compin A,  Guillaume M, & Santou F (2012). ‘ “Freshwater Killer Whales”: Beaching Behavior of an Alien Fish to Hunt Land Birds’ PLoS ONE: dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050840
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