The Loh Down On Science

Fish Tales

If you think this mating story sounds fishy, you'd be quite right.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet the salmon. It's an anadromous fish. That means it lives mostly in salt water, but returns to fresh water to reproduce.

Have you ever seen a male salmon that’s gone from the ocean back to a river? The silvery bullet-shaped fish morphs into a red and green hunchback with fangs and a hooked snout. Yikes!

Luckily, the hormonally-triggered color and skeletal changes are popular with lady salmon. Turns out the male’s hooked jaw indicates dominance. The bigger the jaw, the more dominant he is.

And if the male survives spawning, the jaw shrinks and converts into bone. So he looks relatively normal when he returns to the ocean. But the jaw grows back bigger on the next trip upstream. That makes him look even more dominant. And weirdly alluring.

In short, you say "ugly fish seeks love," they say "salmon chanted evening!" Sorry.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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