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Meet the Black Swallower, a Nightmarish Binge Eater

posted: 12/23/15
by: Danny Clemens
Black swallower (Chiasmodon niger)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

If you think your holiday binge later this week will be one for the record books, you obviously haven't met the black swallower, a deep-water creature capable of swallowing prey larger than itself.

The fish (Chiasmodon niger) lives at depths of up to 10,000 feet below the surface, where food is scarce and sometimes the only meal available is one that's bigger than its entire body. Although an average black swallower measures approximately 10 inches long, the fish routinely gobbles up animals twice its length and ten times its mass with ease.

In fact, the fish has been known to bite off more than it can handle -- literally. In 2007, a dead swallower was found floating off of the coast of the Cayman Islands. The overzealous creature had swallowed a 34-inch mackerel, which was relatively so large that the swallower couldn't digest its delicious treat before the mackerel began to decompose in the its gut.

Gases produced during the decomposition process caused the swallower's gut to burst, and the dead fish floated like a balloon to the surface of the water. Most of the swallowers known to humankind have made their way into the hands of scientists in that exact way.


According to Fish Index, the swallower creeps up behind its prey, trapping the meal -- no matter its size! -- by the tail in its sharp, interlocking teeth. The swallower then coils the prey into its expanding stomach, and sets off in search of its next victim.

Can't get enough #WeirdAnimalWednesday? Learn more about the Mexican walking fish, the blobfish and the sea pig.

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