Weekly Fish – King of the Herrings

Weekly Fish – King of the Herrings

Just when it seemed that the herring had secured its position as king of the fishes, due to its speed and skills in traffic control (see last week’s weekly fish), its claim to the throne was challenged. The striped red mullet (Mullus surmuletus) was, in countries around the North Sea, known as “King of the Herrings” or “King of the Sea”. As with the common herring, there was a story told by fishermen according to which the mullet had been chosen to be king at a gathering of all fishes. This had nothing to do with its speed, however, and everything with its appearance. Continue reading “Weekly Fish – King of the Herrings”

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Darwin on Stunningly Sexy Fishes

Darwin on Stunningly Sexy Fishes

In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, after discussing human evolution, Darwin sweeps through the animal kingdom looking for secondary sexual characters. These are features of an animal that are different between males and females, but not directly involved in the act of sex. Thus, for example, a lion’s penis is a primary sexual character, whereas his mane is a secondary sexual character. Everyone is familiar with such characters when it comes to mammals and especially birds – who doesn’t like a good paradise bird courtship ritual – but what about the fishes? Continue reading “Darwin on Stunningly Sexy Fishes”

Weekly Fish – Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus)

Weekly Fish – Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus)

Who is the king of the fishes? I will explore this pressing question in a four-part series on a short fable that appears in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It is somewhat similar to the well-known story of the birds that have a flying contest in order to decide who will be king of winter, where the little wren wins by hiding underneath the eagle’s feathers, thus becoming king (indeed, winter-king is a name the wren still carries in some Germanic languages). The fishes, too, want to decide who is to be king, and how better to decide than by having a swimming contest? Soon enough the winner is announced: “The herring is first. The herring is first!” Continue reading “Weekly Fish – Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus)”

A Shrimpy Trinity

A Shrimpy Trinity

The depths of our planet’s oceans have long provided a home to many a quirky critter. A particularly curious one is the odd shrimp, Anomalocaris, who struck fear in the hearts of its invertebrate contemporaries as it roamed the seas of the early Cambrian, some 530 million years ago. The story of how this monster got its (not particularly apt) name has been told before, but my blog’s title might be in need of some explanation, so a partial retelling seems appropriate. Continue reading “A Shrimpy Trinity”