Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Creature Feature: Koi.

Yes, the infamous man-faced fish is a variety of koi. Y'know, the same oriental fish that people keep in ponds in their backyards. There are some seriously weird things going on with koi, including scalelessness and the man-faced fish up there.

Koi are one of the main symbols of Japanese culture. Like arowanas, carp are believed to have some similarities to dragons. A carp can supposedly become a dragon by jumping over the Dragon Gate; this is why fish can be found everywhere on the Japanese holiday Boys' Day. Koi in particular are also thought of as symbols of harmony and friendship because 'koi' is a homophone for another word for 'love.' (This is kinda weird; the Greek word for 'carp' also sounds like one of the epithets of Aphrodite. Maybe the Japanese were onto something.)

Not even all of them.

The Japanese certainly do love their koi. There are over twenty morphs of koi, yet this was not enough to fit them into breed week. The reason why makes a lot more sense if one knows how fish mate.

The male forces the eggs out of a female in a sticky mass. They stick wherever they can. Afterward, one or more males may fertilize the mass. It's pretty much an orgy, albeit one that's a LOT less fun than it sounds.

That's a lotta fish.

This process makes it almost impossible to guarantee physical attributes of the offspring. Koi, unlike mammals and reptiles, have thousands of offspring. The undesirable fry are usually used as food for other fish. They are said to enhance the color of arowana in particular.

O hai, I can has ur koi baybees?

In short, it's impossible to guarantee the attributes of the offspring, which is one of the criteria for a breed. Koi are just common carp with pretty colors, and revert back into their wild nature within a few generations. Seeing as carp are large, hardy fish, this can cause a lot of ecological problems if they are released outside of the pond.

Oh, and they can also live over 200 years - even longer than a Galapagos tortoise. Have fun maintaining your koi pond postmortem!

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