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Otters Oddities

Illustration for article titled Otters Oddities

I’d like you all to meet my newest friend. His name is Hubert Danforth Smeglington Walcott the 3rd, but I just call him Joe.


I have ever been curious about Joe. The one question I would like him to answer, he never does. That question is, ‘Hey Joe! Where you going with that gun in your hand?’ Now, someone said he was going downtown to shoot his old lady, caught her messing around with another man, but Joe himself has never said that.

Because he’s a fish.

And fish don’t talk.

Well, not exactly true. I know one fish you talks. Used to talk a lot. Was a cop for many years until he retired. Det. Phil Fish.* After he retired, he even got his own TV show.


But that’s neither here nor there. What’s really pertinent is, it’s Tuesday again, and an oddities post has shown up. That makes three Tuesdays in a row! Maybe I’ll consider making Tuesday the regular day for these. But maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have General Tso’s chicken for dinner, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll pick the scab off my knee and throw it at that one cute girl, and maybe I won’t. (ok...I won’t throw a scab. Those are too precious to waste and must all be collected in the Coffee Can O’ Scabs. Not to be confused with the Mason Jar O’ Fingernail Clippings)

So, what do I have for you today? I have Joe. Remember Joe? Hubert Danforth Smeglington Walcott the 3rd? That fish pictured up top of the article? You guys should really pay closer attention.


Anyway, Hubert Danforth Smeglington Walcott the 3rd is what his family calls him, Joe is what his friends call him, and Acanthonus armatus is what science calls him.

Now you can see why I call him Joe. It’s just easier that way.

Joe is a bathypelagic species of cusk eel that live in tropical and subtropical oceans. Bathypelagic just means it lives in the bathyal zone of the ocean. That is, from 1,000 meters to 4,000 meters deep. In that zone the water hovers at about 39 degrees.


Living so deep means Joe isn’t exposed to light. And that means he has very tiny eyes. He’s also not a strong swimmer as there aren’t really any predators that deep. You find mostly squid, large whales, echinoids, sponges and brachiopods at that depth.

One interesting thing about Joe is, he currently has the smallest brain to body size amongst all vertebrates. But don’t go calling Joe stupid. He’s not smart enough to understand what that word means....


He’s not a big fish. He only grows to a maximum size of about 14 inches.

I’d love to tell you more about Joe, but he’s fairly unknown amongst the scientific community. Because of the area he lives in, not a lot of specimens have been caught for study, and no live examples are to be found in any aquarium or research center anywhere.


But, if you’re an Ichthyologist, chances are you know about Joe. You see, virtually every species of plant and animal have at least two names. They have their scientific names, and they have their common names. For example, to science we’re Homo sapiens. But we call ourselves humans. What we commonly call the Western Lowland Gorilla is actually Gorilla gorilla gorilla to science. (Not kidding).

And while Joe’s scientific name is Acanthonus armatus, it’s common name is why he’s the subject of this oddities post. You see, I just made up the names Hubert Danforth Smeglington Walcott the 3rd and Joe. No one, not even I, call him by those names. You see, the common name for Acanthonus armatus is actually.......the Bony Eared Assfish.


Do I need to remind you all that I don’t make this stuff up? That is actually what people call it.

How much fun would it be to catch one of these and have your friends ask you what it is? And then, when you say with confidence that it’s called “The Bony Eared Assfish”, just think of the enjoyment you’ll get from rubbing the Google results in their faces.


Personally, I take comfort in the fact that someone, somewhere, decided to call this a Bony Eared Assfish. But whomever came up with that delightful moniker will forever remain anonymous. No one knows who named it that. But one look at the fish and you can certainly figure out why.

* Detective Phil Fish. You first met him on the sitcom ‘Barney Miller’. He went on to have his own spinoff titled ‘Fish’. He was portrayed by the ever lovable, but not dead, curmudgeon, Abe Vigoda.

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