Small fish takes big bite

Local fisherman, McPherson ‘Dorson’ Wright recently landed a fish that may be heading into the world record books.

Great Swallower

The Snake Mackerel show coiled in the partially opened stomach of the Great Swallower. Photo: Phillippe Bush, Department of the Environment 

Mr. Wright said that normally one expects ‘big fish to eat down the small fish’, but the hungry little fish broke that rule in a big way.

While fishing in about 1,400 feet of water off the South Coast of Grand Cayman, Mr. Wright’s attention was drawn to an object that was floating on the surface nearby. He motored over to investigate and picked up a dead fish that simply amazed him. It is now also astonishing scientists both here and in the United States.

In the belly of the fish was another fish, and this one was clearly much, much bigger. In fact when it was measured it was determined that the fish he picked up had eaten a ‘snake mackerel’ that was more than four times its own length.

‘When I first saw it I really couldn’t believe my eyes,’ said Wright. ‘It had obviously just died, so I decided I had to put it in the boat and take it down to the Department of the Environment to investigate it further.’

Marine Scientist Phillippe Bush snapped some photographs and sent them up to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in the United States. A short time later, Tracey Sutton wrote back saying the fish ‘was appropriately called a ‘Great Swallower’ and it normally lives in deep water.’

The scientist was clearly excited by the pictures he was looking at. Mr. Sutton wrote saying ‘This is amazing! I have seen this fish with big prey before but yours takes the cake. It would surely rank as one of the largest, if not the largest, rations known among all fishes (relative to their own weight).’

The scientist added that it was likely ‘the finding would be written up in a scientific paper’ and then wondered how the Great Swallower avoided being eaten by the Snake Mackerel.

Mr. Sutton also asked if the photo of the fish could be used on a poster next year.

The scientist at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute also offered to pay to have Mr. Wright’s fish shipped to the United States.

The Great Swallower found off South Sound was just 7.5 inches in length. The fish it had eaten, an extremely aggressive snake mackerel, measured 34 inches, which is close to three feet in length.

Local Marine Scientist Phillippe Bush was in awe of the smaller fish’s appetite.

‘I would hate to see what a three-foot-long Great Swallower is capable of eating.’


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