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.


  1. I like how you described Joe as a "tenacious nerd" guys make me laugh

    -Little R

  2. Man, I wouldn't trade my job for yours. Give me the snot and bratty children over fish guts any day. If you ever find a 4 carat diamond ring in a fish stomach, though, I'll take it.

  3. glad you're enjoying your guts. i was about to have lunch, asshole.

  4. also... googled sea kittens. makes my head hurt. peta is a bunch of idiots.

  5. I love it, you would totally fit in great with a bunch of nurses at lunch, talking oozing wounds, bloody puke and traumatic brain matter bulging out a head wound. Anytime you want to trade careers let me know. Aunt T.

  6. My gag reflex is in high mode lately.. I little warning next time would be great.

  7. I'm glad I could be of service. You guys still owe me a Guinness though.