The Shore Clingfish: How they eat the limpet shell and all

The Shore Clingfish: How they eat the limpet shell and all

The Shore Clingfish: How they eat the limpet shell and all: To survive here at the coast, the clingfish uses a suction pad, formed by modified fins underneath its ufabet body. It’s so powerful it can hold about 200 times the fish’s bodyweight, and specialised hairs on the pad stop it sliding on the slippery algae-covered rocks.

The Shore Clingfish: How they eat the limpet shell and all

The Shore Clingfish: How they eat the limpet shell and all

In between tides, it swims to the safety of its small cave and attaches itself upside-down on the roof. The suction pad helps it conserve energy, as the fish has no need to fight against the swirling currents.

The clingfish hangs around in its cave for the tide to come in, and is often the first in the queue to have a go at the newly submerged limpets. This is where its other ufabet key feature comes in: very large and prominent front teeth.

It was once thought that the fish used these to lever limpets away from the underlying rock and it strikes its limpet prey in about one-third of a second. 

Prior to an attack, the clingfish goes through a shivering phase, its fins quivering and its body tensing up. It then grabs the limpet shell with its sharp teeth and twists through 90 degrees, much like we open a bottle cap.

This twisting motion breaks the vacuum seal created by the limpet’s foot. The fish juggles the limpet with its mouth, as it must position it upside down to swallow, shell and all. While the soft parts are digested, the shells are ufabet stacked like interlocking hats in the stomach, covered in lubricating mucus and regurgitated as a single unit.’

The empty limpet shells are stacked in the fish’s foregut, and the clingfish in other parts of South Africa, particularly large individuals, might lever off limpets as was first thought, but all the clingfish in False Bay adopt the same twisting ‘bottleopening’ method.