Land Shark! Invasive species the European catfish launching themselves onto land to nab pigeon prey have earned the moniker 'freshwater killer whales' from the French scientist who documented the phenomenon. (Photo: via PLoS ONE)

'Freshwater Killer Whale' Catfish Squirm Onto Land to Grab Pigeons


The invasive European catfish has learned to grab tasty pigeons from the shore, stranding themselves on the beach for precious seconds as they nab their prey, the scientific journal PLoS ONE reported on December 5.

On a small gravel island in the middle of the River Tarn winding through the city of Albi, in southwestern France, pigeons gather to clean and bathe, as Discover magazine described the scene. And one group of European catfish, the continent’s largest freshwater fish at up to 1.5 meters long, have learned to launch themselves out of the water, clench a pigeon in their jaws, writhe back into the water and proceed to dine.

All this was discovered by Julien Cucherousset, a researcher from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, after local fishermen told him about the phenomenon, Discover reported. He proceeded to film 54 attacks during summer 2011, 28 percent of which succeeded, and dubbed the fish “freshwater killer whales.”

Watch the catfish in action in the video below. 

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