We've had a letter at Dandy Towers... Well, I say letter, it wasn't a letter, obviously, this is the twenty-first century. I mean, no-one sends letters any more... It was a bunch of electrons, sent over the aether via the medium of social networking. And it read thusly:
Nicki who lives in an Oak Tree somewhere in Greater Manchestershire asks...
Dear Mr Dandy,
Please can you cast your mind onto fish... Sole look depressed, Angler Fish, what are they all about?? It's been buzzing round my head now and I think it's a subject that needs addressing.
(Aged forty mumble)
Well, what a great question... What are fish all about?
First of all, let's define fish. A fish is a thing, measuring anywhere from less than an inch up to about seventy feet long or something. They exclusively breathe the oxygen that is dissolved in water through gills - which are a sort of inside-out lung affairs inside the fish's head, where any right-minded animal would keep its ears. Through sheer laziness they have allowed their webbed hands and feet to devolve into fins, which although, by some happy accident allows them to 'swim' in the 'water', makes them completely rubbish at climbing stairs.
There are of course exceptions to the gill thing, it seems that there are many kinds of fish that have the audacity to have lungs. These are called lung-fish, which just goes to show that on the evolutionary ladder, 'growing lungs' comes a long way before 'being able to think of an interesting name for yourself' Many types of lung-fish also have rudimentary legs, presumably to make up for the stair climbing inadequacies of their less evolved brethren. But nobody really knows the answer to that if they're being honest.
Another thing that characterises fish is that they all have scales, except the ones that don't. Blennies (or to give them their Latin name, Blennioidei - I'm not going to give you every fish I mention's Latin name, I just thought that one was great...) Have skin, covered in slime instead - A bit like Eels and Hagfish.
Ooh-ooh.. Hagfish, they're great too, not only do they have slime-producing skin, but they've also only gone and lost their backbones... Their skeleton is pretty much the top half of the skull and some bits of cartilage... They have no discernible brain and three hearts - Their teeth are on their tongues, not in their jaws... BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE JAWS!
And don't get me started on sharks, their skin is made of teeth... No, seriously, it is, they're called Dermal Denticles - Which, to me, sounds like a crappy alien in a badly written sci-fi story. They're just an extension of the, like, bajillion rows of teeth that a shark has. Can you imagine the design meeting for that one?
Shark God (SG): So, I thought i's go with covering this Mo-Fo in a layer of tiny teeth, innit?
Fish Project Manager (FPM): Teeth? Like... Teeth? Not scales, or skin, or snot? Teeth?
SG: Yeah Man, scales has been done to death, we need somefink new, yah get me?
FPM: But wouldn't they sort of, fall out? Teeth do that don't they? Wouldn't it leave a hole?
SG: Nah mate, the next one in line would take it's place. Move up into dah breach an' t'ing.
FPM: Just that one? Not the whole row surely, how would that work?
SG: [Thinks] Now that you come to mention it Brah, I's not entirely sure, I'll get that guy what did da Wombat to take a look... Safe!
FPM: Wombat God? You know that he made their poop cubic right? You're going to him for design hints?
SG: Ha! Yeah Bruv, square poop is da shiznit! They makes some wikkid sounds when you get a few together, all da howlin' an' da strainin' and such [Makes flicking noises by moving his hand up and down quite briskly]
FPM: Ok, give it a go and let us know how it goes. Has to be better than those slimy things with the teeth on their tongues. Hey! Wasn't that your idea too?
SG: [Grins and gives a thumbs-up] Aiii!
But, our askee had a couple of specific points. Number one was 'Sole look depressed'. Well, I guess they would. The whole flatfish thing is a bit peculiar, imagine you're a baby sole, just hatched and full of the joys of the ocean. At this point, you're not a flatfish, you're a normal uppey-downey fish with fins on the top and a tail that points uppey and downey, not leftey and rightey like those nasty Dolphins. They you look at your Mum.
She's lying there, on her side, panting. OK, so maybe the stress of being a new mother has taken it out of her a bit, so you swim over and hold out your lucky fin to tell her that everything's going to be OK, and she should just have a bit of a rest whilst.... Oh My Neptune! both of her eyes are on the same side of her head! - She must have been so tired after the spawning that she became unconscious and hit the seabed so hard that it knocked her left eye onto the right side of her head... You instantly brand yourself a bad child until you start to mature... And your left eye starts to move... Slowly... onto the right hand side of your head and you start to favour your left-hand side, which goes white. You realise that it wasn't your fault - You're finally free from guilt... Huzzah! Then you happen to catch your reflection in a submarine porthole, and see that you're ugly...
So terribly ugly.
And tasty, deliciously tasty
Yes, I'd say that that would make me depressed. I'll give you that one.
And Angler Fish... They're pretty odd too. Let's see what the average man in the street knows about them.
- They're dog-ugly
- They live in the dark
- Some of them light up
- They have a fishing rod jammed into their forehead
- The males are tiny compared to the females
Well, yeah, that sounds about right but there are some even stranger things about them. The fishing rod type lure thing is actually part of their dorsal fin which has done a bit of lone migrating to the top of their heads, leaving the rest of its dorsal finny buddies on the fish's back as is normal.
And you know how, if you're needy, you might say to someone 'I literally can't live without you'? Well, in the case of certain male Angler Fish this is true. Many of them are born without a fully formed gut, or even jaws, so they can only be fed by the female, who may be up to hundreds of times bigger than they are.
But she doesn't do that wonderful chewing and spitting out thing that lots of other animals do... Anglers are the hipsters of the seabed, and that would be too mainstream. For the male Angler Fish, there is only one choice - To bond with the female by clamping onto her soft underbelly and waiting for her skin to absorb him whilst drinking her bodily fluids.
Yeah... Ewww right?
Well, that's not the end of it, over time, he almost completely disappears... Except for his testicles which stay firmly attached to the little bump that remains and fully functional. So every time Mrs Angler Fish decides to pop out some tiddlers, she can fertilize them herself... Kinda.
Oh, and another thing? Ever had Monkfish Tails in a posh restaurant? That's Angler Fish butt you're eating right there...
Fish are small or huge, breathe air or water, covered in scales, skin, slime or teeth, have fins or legs, lay eggs or give birth to live young, eat other fish, plants, microscopic creatures or people and generally float about in the sea without a care in the world like a fat bloke from Halifax on Wakes Week...
Except when they're flying, or walking, or making a little mud igloo for themselves to survive an arid winter, or swimming up a stream of urine to lodge themselves in the end of your penis with their spiky fins.
Best thing to do, in my opinion, is to steer well clear. A lot of them are bitey, even more are poisonous, those that aren't are slimy or will try to kill you even after you've eaten them by lodging their tiny bones in you epiglottis.