Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Catfish among the Pigeons

By Magdeline Lum

It might be time to add to the selection of bait and lures used to catch freshwater fish now that scientists have observed catfish hunting pigeons and tigerfish catching swallows.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Along the banks of the Tarn River in the south-west of France, catfish are hunting pigeons. If that is hard to believe, researchers from the University of Toulouse have observed the catfish temporarily stranding themselves on land to catch their prey. The scientists are hailing this behaviour as evidence of adaptive behaviour.

The pigeon-hunting catfish originated east of the Rhine River, and in 1983 they were introduced to the Tarn River.

In 2011, researchers positioned themselves on a bridge above a gravel island and watched the fish for 4 months. During this time they saw 54 pigeon-hunting events. In 28% of cases catfish successfully captured pigeons on land and dragged them back into the water to eat.

Pigeons gather at the water’s edge to bathe as catfish measuring 1–1.5 metres patrol in the shallows. In nearly all cases, the catfish would launch themselves towards a pigeon moving in water.

In some of these instances the catfish were temporarily stranded on land. The catfish would then wriggle back into the water with its prey. This suggests that the catfish are detecting vibrations through the water rather than relying on vision.

The hunting behaviour of the catfish has been likened to bottlenose dolphins that drive fish onto beaches, and also to killer whales in Argentina that thrust themselves onto beaches when hunting sea lions...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.