Monday, January 16, 2017

Eels hold onto prey with their second "alien-like" jaws

Hungry movie aliens are very persistent.
Photo: HadeelMaaitah, Twitter
The xenomorph space alien in the movie "Alien" has that terrifying second set of jaws that pop out to nab its intended victim.

The idea for this bizarre architecture actually came from Earth.

It's real. In an eel. (sorry).

Morays and other eels, and in fact some 30,000 fish species, have these double jaws that normally sit in the animal's throat, rather than in their mouth, like ours do. Their correct name is "pharyngeal" jaws, named for the pharynx, or throat.

Why eels? Well, morays are large predatory fish, growing up to several meters (>10 feet) long. They lack protective scales and pelvic and pectoral fins, so they mostly hang out in narrow burrows waiting to ambush a fish or crab. When they see on pass by close enough, they come out and make an swift attack. They then swallow the animal whole. Gulp.