This innocent-looking rabbitfish might be carrying some invasive passengers inside. This innocent-looking rabbitfish might be carrying some invasive passengers inside. This innocent-looking rabbitfish might be carrying some invasive passengers inside. (Photo: Ian Scott / Shutterstock)

These sneaky sea creatures are hitching rides inside the guts of other fish

Scientists discovered that an invasive fish species is using rabbitfish to travel around the Mediterranean.

Catching a ride in a fish's gut is apparently the underwater equivalent of train hopping. Scientists just discovered that amphistegina lobifera, tiny sea creatures that have been invading the Mediterranean, travel in a pretty weird way: inside the guts of rabbitfish.

The millimeter-long amphistegina lobifera hang out inside the rabbitfish, get pooped out and take over, like the Trojan Horses of ... well, also of the Mediterranean, actually. Maybe the Mediterranean just has a thing for weirdly sneaky transportation.

To figure this out, researchers collected rabbitfish off the Israeli shore, in what must have been pretty cool-looking underwater adventure.

“They’re sleepy at night, so they move really slowly. We did dives down to six metres and caught them by hand,” explained Tamar Guy-Haim, an Israeli ecologist who worked on the study.

The scientists brought the fish to a lab and, in in all their sciency glamour, waited around for the fish to poop.

“It’s almost like opening a Kinder Surprise egg," continued Guy-Haim with some pretty boundless optimism. "You never know exactly what you’ll find inside." The scientists discovered a bunch of living animals in the poop, including snails, brittle stars and amphistegina lobifera.

These non-native species have taken over the region, much like dandelions in the Americas or humans everywhere. Scientists think the gut transportation may explain how they've traveled so fast.

When interviewed about all this, an amphistegina lobifera replied, "Is Uber coming underwater soon? Because the transportation here stinks."

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