A European catfish moves in to attack a group of pigeons. (YouTube/Discover Magazine)In an unusual development that researchers are calling evidence of adaptive behavior, some catfish have taken to jumping on land to hunt live pigeons.
Discover Magazine's Ed Yong writes, "These particular catfish have taken to lunging out of the water, grabbing a pigeon, and then wriggling back into the water to swallow their prey. In the process, they temporarily strand themselves on land for a few seconds."
Researchers captured video of the European catfish, which reside in the River Tarn in southwestern France. In the footage, several of the fish, which range in length from 3 to nearly 5 feet, are seen thrusting their bodies from the shallow banks onto land where they capture pigeons and drag them back into the water.
Some dolphins and killer whales have exhibited similar behavior, though both are mammals and better equipped to survive on land for brief periods of time.
Still, Julien Cucherousset from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse has taken to describing the catfish as "freshwater killer whales."
The study results were published in the scientific journal Plos One. The study's abstract notes:
"Among a total of 45 beaching behaviors observed and filmed, 28% were successful in bird capture. … Since this extreme behavior has not been reported in the native range of the species, our results suggest that some individuals in introduced predator populations may adapt their behavior to forage on novel prey in new environments, leading to behavioral and trophic specialization to actively cross the water-land interface."
Watch the video of the catfish hunting the pigeons: