i touch, i taste, i am
A recent trip to Portland
Catfishes are the most hipster fish.
You’ve probably never heard of them.
They grow elaborate mustaches, also known as barbels. A catfish’s most prominent barbels are maxillary, protruding from the sides of their mouths. Another hipster fish donning barbels is the sturgeon. A sturgeon’s four barbels are mandibular, protruding from their chins. Goatfish rock goatee barbels. Zebrafish have tiny ones. Wobbegong sharks, I can’t even.
These whisker-like extensions are more than an expression of individualism – they are sensory marvels.
Barbels are associated with a benthic lifestyle – fishes that hang out on the bottom of rivers and reefs, critiquing the consumerist lifestyle of pelagic fishes. Benthic fish feed on invertebrates (exclusively local and organic, of course) that are hidden beneath the murky plumes of mud and sand. Vision, even when enhanced with thick-framed glasses, is not the sense to rely on for finding brunch under these conditions.
Well wouldn’t you know, barbels have taste buds. Way back when, neurologist Charles Judson Herrick discovered that catfish can sense taste through buds on the body, fins, and barbels. Barbels can also be sensitive to touch. So, while these legit-looking fish cruise along the bottom, their barbels act as “feelers” detecting objects and tasting them to confirm they are food.
– sent from my iPhone
Catfish Joe, Poor Dog Farm