It seems that every journalist in the world is currently racing around the Gulf, desperately trying to snap pictures or shoot video of hard-working volunteers scrubbing BP oil off of nature's cutest critters. Show me some good-hearted volunteer animal scrubber trying to Brillo the goo off a pelican or a dolphin and I will show you an army of photographers standing right behind him just snapping away like it was Mother Nature's red carpet. Seriously, I figure we're only a few days away from some enterprising news organization shipping down their own load of puppies and otters, dunking them in the sludge and then having unemployed Victoria's Secret underwear models scrub them clean again under the glare of ten thousand flashbulbs.
Photo courtesy LSU, via CNN Oh, ain't you a pretty little fella...
But what about nature's ugly animals, I ask you? Who is there to care about all the suckfish and hermit crabs and, most important, one of nature's fugliest little swimmers: halieutichthys aculeatus, more commonly known as the Louisiana Pancake Batfish?
Ichthyologist Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty, that's who. And, of course, CNN--champion of unusual looking animals (like James Carville) and all those little stories that go untold.
His wife calls him Serpent Head when she's pissed
In an article posted yesterday at CNN.com, reporter Kelly Lynch went to bat for the pancake batfish, naming it as one of the species desperately threatened by the bazillion gallons of oil belching out into the Gulf every day. It is a weird little creature (again, like James Carville), no bigger than the oval you can make with a finger and a thumb. It lives deep down on the floor of the Gulf, at about 1500 feet below the surface, just lurching along and eating whatever small invertebrates it can catch (again, like James Carville). According to Chakrabarty, they're "like a pancake with feet. They're bizarre for what they look like and how they behave."
Which, of course, can also be said about James Carville.
The biggest irony of the pancake batfish's existence? It was just discovered last fall, during a pre BP trawl through the Gulf by a bunch of university fish biologists (and if you don't think that was a party? Well, then you obviously don't know enough fish biologists...). Of the 100,000 or so fishies and sea critters that were caught and cataloged during the expedition, only three were pancake batfish--meaning that they're probably very rare in nature to start. The fact that their food source down on the sea floor is now all slicked up with oil thanks to the gushing underwater plumes of oil? Yeah, they're probably going to become a whole lot rarer soon.
This, from Chakrabarty and Lynch:
"All of life on earth is a big book. All the extinct things are pages that are torn out of that book that muddle our history," Chakrabarty said. He said what is most upsetting to him is that after 200 years of scientific study in the gulf, he estimates 98 percent of its marine life remains unknown. And with the United States' worst-ever environmental disaster still ongoing, it could become unknown forever.
He said what is most upsetting to him is that after 200 years of scientific study in the gulf, he estimates 98 percent of its marine life remains unknown. And with the United States' worst-ever environmental disaster still ongoing, it could become unknown forever.
Interested in the plight of the pancake fish? You can read the whole CNN story right here. And just because I think it's funny, here's a link to some more weird pictures of James Carville--who isn't so much threatened by the Gulf oil spill, but has been made more threatening by it.