Dec 16, 2009

Every stomach is a big bag of Christmas!

Hey party people.

It's always a complete surprise. When I pluck a fish stomach out of its alcohol bath, the tenacious nerd in me says, "Man, I hope there's something really cool in here."

Well, I guess cool is relative. Most people would think finding a golf ball or a Yanni cassette in a fish stomach would be cool. I'm always hoping it'll be a really rare fish or crab species, or maybe see some cannibalism. Yes, some fish eat their own.

I was going to reference Soylent Green here, but I feel like 5 out of my 7 readers wouldn't get it. But................I'm doing it anyway. Tell them Charlton Heston...


I've been conducting some fish gut analysis for the past couple of weeks. Gut analysis is one of a few methods to study the food web in an ecosystem. For our research, we're looking at diet of reef fish (snapper, grouper, porgy, triggerfish, amberjack) on artificial reefs compared with their diet on natural reefs. Fish stomach:

Accurate diet analysis requires a good knowledge of all walks of marine life, experience in taxonomy, and some creativity. To put it simply: It's not easy. Obviously, the stomach digests, the diet items that you pluck out:
1. Aren't usually in one piece.
2. Sometimes don't even remotely look like how they should look outside of a stomach.
3. Are all mixed together in one giant gastric orgy.

So David Caruso, you gotta piece together the crime scene, rule things out, look for distinguishable characteristics, classify things as specifically as possible (even to species), and be 85% sure it IS whatever you're going to classify it as. Any less sure, isn't sure enough. And take off your sunglasses, ginger.

Here's a picture of Joe doing science:

As we go along, we've taken some pictures of the more interesting things we've come across. But 90% of what we see is brown goo. Here are some of the highlights.

Rock Shrimp

Fish head. Most likely a Blenny.

Portunid crab claw


Thecosomata or "Sea Butterflies". Just google it. Look up "sea kittens" too. Then laugh.

It also makes this work a lot easier if you're good friends with an invertebrate guy down the hall (Thanks, Alex). He knows stuff.

Somedays it hits me. I do weird things at work. But, it's actually pretty fun. BTW, I'm 85 percent sure that this post made you nauseated. And that's ok, because that's what I strive for.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Dec 2, 2009

Toilet humor

Sorry I haven't posted anything in a month. Honestly, there's been little time to write and little motivation on my part. However, aside from the Holidays coming up, time is now on my side and my motivation has never been stronger. Material is a little lacking, but hey....we're past that. I'll just keep posting about things you might not care about because you'll read anything, won't you?

I can't believe it's December already. Up until now, I've been very busy with field work so the time, she flies by. We're going to shut down field work for a few months, for the most part. This gives us time to catch up on laboratory work. And who wants to be on a boat in the middle of the Gulf this time of year? It's bumpy, cold, and wet.

That's what she said.

Pretty soon, Joe and I will be working on some reef fish gut analysis. BTW my right hand man, Joe is one of our technicians in the lab. We've collected hundreds of stomachs in the past couple of months from fish we caught hook-and-line. The stomachs have been pickled in formalin, so we'll be dissecting them and identifying/weighing the contents. So I'll snap off a few pictures and learn you something about fish diet.

Speaking of pictures, I'll be getting myself a new DSLR camera this Christmas. I'm thinking about getting the Canon Rebel EOS XSi. So that means more expensive toys for me to break, and better pictures for you to look at. You're welcome.

So...that's status quo. Oh, I wanted to end the post with a bang. A really gross bang. Here's an article about eating Escolar.

sweet oily revenge

The Escolar (or "butterfish") is sometimes labeled as white tuna in sushi restaurants. I've also seen it prepared in upscale seafood restaurants. The fish contains a high fat content, with a healthy portion of wax esters. These esters can cause anal leakage. Apparently, if you eat enough of the fish (more than 6 ounces), the wax esters pool up and seep out into your trousers.

The more you know.