Way Out Wednesday: Elephant Nose Fish!

Elephant nose fish, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Elephant nose fish, © 2015 Liz Vitale

The elephant nose fish is an interesting fish that originates from the Niger River and its tributaries in Western Africa. It has an unusual shape including an angular body, a long narrow tail and an appendage that appears to be its nose; however this is actually an extension of the fish’s mouth. The elephant nose fish uses its trunk-like extension to forage for food, communicate, move through the water and for self defense. The extension of its mouth is really it’s “chin”, and it functions like an eye; in complete darkness,sweeping its head from side to side and moving the appendage through the sand or mud below, the fish can even distinguish the material of objects at a distance or discriminate dead organisms from living ones. It uses a weak electric field, which it generates with specialized cells called electrocytes, which are evolved from muscle cells, to find food and to navigate in dark or turbid waters. Although the elephant nose fish was once thought to have poor eyesight, it is now known to have good low light vision.


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