BATFISH X-RAY
 SURPRISE

Walter Starck

X-rays are often used by ichthyologists to examine the skeletal characteristics of fishes.  I once x-rayed a specimen of Shortnose Batfish (Ogcocephalus nasutus) out of curiosity as to what this unusual fish's skeletal structure might look like. When the x-ray was developed it was a surprise to see that the batfish had a collection of sea shells inside it. Even more unusual, they had been swallowed whole.
      Whether the shells are dissolved by stomach acid or only their flesh digested away is unknown. If not dissolved they would seemingly pose a problem in eventually passing them. Most other mollusk eaters have powerful jaws and or pharyngeal crushers to break shells into bits. The shell fragments are then mostly spat out and only the flesh is swallowed. Swallowing them whole seems a hard way to go but it has been subsequently found by others as well so it appears to be a habit of these fishes and not just an isolated anomaly.
      Life is full of surprises, starting with its very existence and culminating in the ultimate mystery of consciousness.

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