Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tasmanian Trout Cho Cho

"Let us now sing the praises of the glorious Trout Cho Cho! His shiny green fur, his distinctive track marks down the spine, his ever-adapting beady eyes, his distinctive, (dare we say "unique"), parasitic relationship with his individual trout. What a blessed example of the evolutionary imperative! What a shining symbol of the universal mandate to adapt, adapt, adapt! Oh, blessed nature!"

So wrote Charles Darwin in February, 1836 about his first sighting of the Cho Cho at the side of a creek upon landing in Hobart (Tasmania) on his now famous journey around the world on the good ship Beagle.

Also known as the "Trout Devil", "Trout Monkey" and "Fish Pimp", the Tasmanian Trout Cho Cho is both unique to Tasmania and an incredible example of parasitism. When young, Cho Chos feed on nuts and berries that they find growing by the side of stagnant pools. But when they reach the age of seven, an incredible transformation occurs. They begin binding with fish. In a special event that biologists call "The Binding of the Fish", Cho Chos rush to the water and furiously search until they catch a single fish. And that's when the magic happens.

"It's truly incredible," says Doctor Henrietta Thrush, who specializes in the study of this unusual mammal. "During the Binding of the Fish, the Fish Pimp holds the fish by the head and looks deeply into its eyes. Then the Cho Cho makes this high-pitched keening sound that we scientists call, "The Fish Keen". Then they take a big bite out of the fish and throw it back into the water. It's an unbelievable thing to witness."

But it's not the most amazing part. Once the Cho Cho has bound itself to the fish, the monkey and the fish are psychically linked in a way that scientists still do not understand. Once bound, the Cho Cho can summon the fish whenever it's hungry; it simply goes to the creek shore and makes the same keening sound. The monkey's bound fish will literally leap out of the water and into its arms. The monkey will take a few bites and throw it back, until the next time. Since monkeys normally spend most of their time sleeping in the branches of trees, they don't eat much. One fish can easily sustain a monkey for several months. Despite its name, the Tasmanian Trout Cho Cho can bind with any fish. For instance, a related species, the Tasmanian Catfish Monkey, binds only with catfish.

The Tasmanian Trout Cho Cho has fallen on hard times recently. Fishermen consider the creature to be severe problem and often shoot them on sight, even when they're on nature preserves. One angler explained his hatred by saying, "I don't want to catch no fish with a bite already taken out of it. It's not fair and it's a little disgusting."

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