Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Centurion Pigeon-Toed Batfish

Sometimes called the "King of the Batfish", the Centurion Pigeon-toed Batfish is a nocturnal bat that uses its exceptionally large tongue to feed on insects, scooping them out of the sky as it flies through the night.

Unbelievably enough, there are actually 35 different species of Batfish living in the great northwestern rainforests. Still, this represents decimation when put in context, and strangely enough it was not man that caused the problem (at least directly); it was chicken pox, to which the Batfish population is exceptionally susceptible. Once numerous throughout the United States (John Muir documented 117 different species throughout California in the 1870's), Batfish are now an endangered species, and, while there are still some isolated pockets in California, their largest populations are found on the Olympic Penninsula.

Batfish have gills, and unlike other bats, they sleep upside down and beneath the surface of rivers and streams, hooked to rocks and logs in fast moving water. It's not uncommon in some areas to go swimming in an isolated mountain stream and come face to face with a sleeping Batfish. Fortunately, Batfish are relatively harmless, although they do bite and suffer a disproportionately high rate of rabies infestation. Any Batfish bites should be treated by a medical professional at the first opportunity.

In the arts, the musical Batfish Boy! ran for 75 performances on Broadway in 1998; it told the story of a boy raised by Batfish who eventually becomes an accountant and defrauds millions of dollars from investment bankers and Hollywood actors by pretending to have a fatal disease that he got from living with his "relatives". The X-Files episode Batfish Head dealt with an infestation of pyschic Batfish in a nearby river that were terrifying residents of a small Alaskan town by sending them sonar-based messages encouraging them to eat rancid cheeseburgers and hang themselves. The Philip Glass opera John Muir in the River chronicles Muir's effort to catalogue the species in the Sierra Nevada.

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