Monday, June 9, 2008

Good Fathers - Catfish

Catfish are bottom feeders. Catfish are wily, whiskery, mud-dwelling river fish. Catfish, done Cajun-style, are dinner. Catfish are . . . wonderful fathers. Believe it or not, it is the male Hardhead Catfish that is responsible for the safety of the next generation.

Studies are not quite definitive on where the female hardhead deposits her fertilized eggs. She may lay them in a shallow depression in the sea or river bed, or she may deposit them directly into the male catfish's mouth. Either way, that is where the eggs end up - in the male's mouth. The entire clutch is not large, perhaps 2 - 3 dozen, but they are big, each one about the size of a golf ball. For the next 2 months the male will "mouthbrood", allowing the eggs to develop into frys, aka baby fish. Once the eggs have hatched and the young are free-swimming, the male will open his mouth and let his children out.

During this period of time the male catfish can not eat. He will need time to regain body weight and energy before mating again. This form of reproduction may seem a little hard on the catfish, but, even though fewer eggs are laid, it gives the hardhead babies a greater success rate for reaching maturity. Way to go, dad!

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