Scientists found the first evidence of snake eels attempting to escape a horrific death of being eaten alive by bursting out of a fish' stomach after it was eaten.
The eels are typical food for a variety of fish, but if they are swallowed whole, they tend to puncture the stomach using its hard pointed tail tip to make its getaway. However, its daring attempt was all in vain as it did not succeed in burrowing through the ribcage of the fish.
Trapped, it slowly mummified inside the body of the fish.
A Failed Escape Plan
Nature can be brutal and violent. But this discovery from the Queensland Museum is more like the plot of a horror movie rather than a scientific paper, The Guardian reports.
Scientists uncovered preserved snake eels trapped in the body of numerous predatory fish while collecting fish from coastal waters of northern Australia.
Snake eels live most of their lives burrowed in the soft sand of the ocean floor. So, when eaten alive, they will use their pointed tail tip for digging to burst through the fish's stomach to avoid being digested.
However, their efforts were not enough to save them until they were trapped inside the fish's body and died.
The study published online at Memoirs of the Queensland Museum says that "during the dissections of a commercially harvested large marine sciaenid, the Black Jewfish Protonibea diacanthus, collected from coastal waters off northern Australia, ophichthids were found encased in the mesenteries in the body cavity."
Snake Eels Can Burst Through Predators' Stomachs, And That's Not The Grossest Part - https://t.co/dBSqYe0vsZ#breakingnews #news #Latestnews #newsupdate #newsdesk #trendingnews#newspaper #instanews #headlines pic.twitter.com/7H3P52oMYs — 'NewsDesk' (@readnewsdesk) June 5, 2020
After conducting genetic analysis, the study added four species of ophichthids collected from the body cavity of 19 P. diacanthus specimens.
After further investigation, the scientists found an additional three ophichthid species from the body cavities of ten Australian teleost species classified in eight different families.
Fish are Unbothered by the Eels Inside Their Stomach
According to Jeff Johnson, paper co-author and an ichthyologist at the Queensland Museum, the fish is usually unaware that its stomach was penetrated. His team found small holes from the backs of the fish, which seemed did not bother them.
"Fish are able to withstand quite a bit of trauma. Sometimes you'll see fish with quite sizeable chunks out of their backs, and those have healed up, so a small perforation in their stomach wall ... they are probably barely aware that it's happened," Johnson said.
He also noted that some fishermen have reported finding eels in their catch. They are often found in the body cavities of 11 different species that were collected in Australia.
Johnson explained that this process might be bizarre, but their research indicates otherwise. They found that there could be other species of snake eels that are involved, and many more predators will be involved in eel penetrations.
Their study is just the first record of this process in Australian waters, but the researchers expect to more fully determine how widespread it is and how often it happens.