P. Edronkin

Get Fit To Gather Food



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The archer fish of the Australian manglars shows how far nature could go to adapt animals just to eat. Our diet, our daily habits, and the region where we live, all modify and slowly adapt our being and our way of doing things; both the smallest animals, the biggest ones as well as the most complex, like humans, are exposed to changes and adaptations based on the surrounding environment.

We make a great deal about eating, but the truth is that we are very well equipped to nourish ourselves thorough changing environments, and that is perhaps one of the reasons behind obesity; most animals are not obese and could not be due to their particular eating habits and adaptations, as we shall see.

It is good to stay fit and to eat; but perhaps the best thing that could happen to anyone who likes to eat is to get fit while actually gathering food, like what happens in the indo-australian manglars; there, you can sometimes see small yellow fish with dark spots slowly floating near the surface, lurking under the vegetation that falls into the water, and watching outside the water.

When these fish see a small insect walking over the vegetation, they start shooting at them streams of water with a remarkable precision, and up to a range of one metre. The streams resemble machine gun fire, and often the insect is hit repeatedly and falls into the water, where the fish just eat them.

This is the 'Toxotes jaculatrix,' also known as the archer fish, which has adapted over very long periods of time to this particular form of hunting. Its firepower is really great for the size that this animal has, and it is difficult to believe how it does this unless you see it in action.

In order to be so precise, and to shoot with so much energy, the archer fish has developed a morphological adaptation in its lips, which have changed the shape so as to turn them into some sort of muzzle for high pressure water jets.

These adaptations by no means occur slowly; evolution is very slow and sometimes, like in the case of these highly specialised fish could turn for the worse quite quickly, for if the manglars disappear due to changing environmental conditions, the archer fish will fin it very hard to adapt to whatever new environment that might develop. In other words, environmental changes are much faster than evolutionary adaptations, so this species is a true rarity, a blink of nature's eyes.




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