Catfish found to beach themselves, orca-like, to catch land birds

Most people who watch nature shows have seen the famous killer whales of Patagonia rushing up onto the shore to catch unsuspecting sea lions. But how about catfish preying in the same orca-like manner on pigeons? Researchers have studied this phenomenon and published their findings in the journal PLoS One, along with the accompanying video showing two successful and two unsuccessful attacks.

The study, conducted largely by scientists from the University of Toulouse, is titled “Freshwater Killer Whales” and describes the beaching behavior of European catfish on the River Tarn in France. The study’s abstract section states: “Among a total of 45 beaching behaviors observed and filmed, 28 percent were successful in bird capture.”
Study subjects were Wels catfish (Silurus glanis), an invasive or non-native species, and their peculiar behavior is an example of an introduced species adapting to a new environment in order to survive. Native catfish in the river did not exhibit beaching behavior as a prey strategy.

“Since this extreme behavior has not been reported in the native range of the species, our results suggest that some individuals in introduced predator populations may adapt their behavior to forage on novel prey in new environments, leading to behavioral and trophic specialization to actively cross the water-land interface,” the study states.

Pretty exciting stuff, but an unfortunate development for the region’s pigeons.

Image credit: PLoS One

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