Did It Actually Choke???

Fish & Invertebrate sightings and descriptions, hosted by resident NWDC ID expert Janna Nichols (nwscubamom).
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Tangfish
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Re: Did It Actually Choke???

Postby Tangfish » Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:07 pm

Woah, what a crazy find, and you're right - you probably won't ever see that again!

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fmerkel
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Re: Did It Actually Choke???

Postby fmerkel » Sun Jun 14, 2015 2:55 pm

Hard to do a Heimlich on a fish.
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Greg Jensen
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Re: Did It Actually Choke???

Postby Greg Jensen » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:40 am

If you watch a fish, you'll see it moving its mouth as it breathes (more obvious on some than others- some look like they're gasping all the time). Water comes in through the mouth, passes through the gill arches and exits the opening behind the gill covers. Most fish can have something big in their mouth for quite a while and probably maintain some minimal amount of respiratory exchange by vigorously pumping the gill covers, but this is more a back and forth flushing rather than the efficient flow that normally crosses through the gills. I suspect they are incurring an oxygen debt when doing this and if the mouth stays blocked for too long, they croak.

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nwscubamom
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Re: Did It Actually Choke???

Postby nwscubamom » Sat Jun 13, 2015 6:41 pm

I had no idea either! OK, so stupid question here - how can a fish CHOKE if it doesn't breathe air. We breathe differently than fish, so food in our airway obviously makes us choke. Are you saying here that the fish it's eating plugs up its gills too?
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dwashbur
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Re: Did It Actually Choke???

Postby dwashbur » Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:17 am

I had no idea that could happen. Thanks, guys!!!
Dave

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Greg Jensen
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Re: Did It Actually Choke???

Postby Greg Jensen » Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:52 am

Yeah, it isn't that uncommon for fish to choke to death when they "bite off more than they can chew", so to speak. Often happens with big-headed prey like sculpins- fish tries to swallow it headfirst, sculpin raises its head spines, and now its locked in and the fish can't spit it out.
Three or four of the eight baby largemouth bass I had in my pond choked to death on sticklebacks....

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Re: Did It Actually Choke???

Postby Tidepool Geek » Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:02 am

Hi Dave,

I have no firsthand experience with any sort of shark but a couple of years ago at the Feiro Center we had a Lobefin Snailfish apparently choke to death on a sculpin that was too big to swallow. Normally if a fish grabs something that's too big it simply spits it out; depending on species it then either waits for something of a more appropriate size to come along or it re-grabs the item and attempts to tear it into bite sized pieces. My speculation is that in a small percentage of encounters a fish will attempt to eat something that's just the WRONG size - too big to either swallow or spit out (many fish have teeth that are arranged to make it difficult for prey to escape; which can also make it problematic to spit out a poorly chosen meal) - the result is a dead predator.

Mortally yours,
Alex

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dwashbur
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Did It Actually Choke???

Postby dwashbur » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:27 am

Kathy and I were diving at Mike's Beach Resort yesterday afternoon when we came upon a three foot spiny dogfish at around 40 feet. It didn't move very fast; it was dead. It has another fish jammed in its mouth, and that left us wondering: did this guy actually choke on his food? We tried to pull the other fish out but it was too badly decayed. The tail had been eaten off by something else; probably several somethings, actually, there were a couple of little red rock crabs trying to figure out how to go to town on the dogfish carcass when we got there. Based on what markings I can see, I'm guessing the unlucky food fish was a plainfin midshipman, especially since those guys were all over the place. But I'd like any help we can get, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime find and we'd like to know more about it. Can a fish really choke on its food? Or is it more likely that something else happened?

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