It’s Freaky Fish Friday and Catholics who either remember meatless Fridays or still participate in the fasting will be happy to know that neither of these monsters will appear on a plate deep-fried in beer batter with a side of slaw. One mysterious fanged creature was found on the shores of Harvey-bashed Texas while the other was caught on the opposite side of the world and was so big that it couldn’t be towed to shore in time to stay fresh and ready for tartar sauce. What are these freaky fish?
According to local news reports, on September 6th, less than a week after Harvey’s last landfall, Preeti Desai came upon a monster on a beach in Texas City, an appropriately-named town on the southwest Gulf of Mexico shoreline in Galveston County. “What not-so-fresh hell is this?” she must have thought as she walked around and photographed the mysterious creature. This was not a leisurely post-hurricane stroll on the beach for Preeti – she’s a social media manager at the National Audubon Society and has been working with conservationists to asses the damage to wildlife that Harvey caused.
"Okay, biology twitter, what the heck is this?"
After her friends and colleagues couldn’t figure out what the strange sea creature was, Preeti posted the pictures on Facebook, noting that the soda straw in one photo gave a size perspective. The general consensus was confirmed by Dr. Kenneth Tighe, a biologist with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, who identified it as a fangtooth snake-eel or tusky eel (Aplatophis chauliodus), a rarely seen tropical eel that lives in the western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and spends most of its time at depths of 100-300 feet (33-90 meters) hiding in burrows, leaving just that face full of fangs exposed for catching fish who still haven’t caught on to the ruse.
What happened to the fangtooth snake-eel? Preeti says she left it on the beach "to let nature take its course.”
Nature also had the last say about the monster caught by fishermen from Sakhalin, the large island (Russia’s largest) in the North Pacific Ocean just north of Japan. Sakhalin.info reports that the huge fish got stuck in their nets on September 9 but its massive weight slowed the boat down and the fish was no longer edible by the time they docked on September 11th.
That didn’t stop them from weighting it -- 1,100 kg /2,425 pounds/1.2 tons – and identifying it as the-biggest-they’ve-ever-seen-but-not-a-record ocean sunfish (Mola mola), the heaviest species of bony fish on Earth. While not a world record (that belongs to a fish caught near Sydney in 1908 -- 4,927 pounds/2,237 kg), this could have been a record payday for the fishermen since moonfish is what they were fishing for – it’s a delicacy in Japan and Taiwan and, not surprisingly, an ingredient in some Asian folk medicines. Unfortunately, after three days it wasn’t suitable for stuffing by a chef nor a taxidermist. Instead, they hauled it to a designated dumping area and left it for the birds and the bears.
Both fish were creepy but neither was edible, even deep-fried by a talented Cajun cook in Louisiana. Those looking for strange fish on this Friday will have to settle for those mysterious squares on a bun.