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Catfish Eats Basketball - Analysis

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HAVING FOUND no obvious signs that the preceding images were manipulated, the only question in my mind is whether or not the catfish was.

Manipulated, I mean.

Did someone purposely stuff a big, red ball in the unfortunate creature's mouth for the sake of a giggle? Possibly. We just don't know. In fact, we have no information whatsoever on the origin of these photos, though they have circulated via email for several weeks and appeared, unattributed, on Internet bulletin boards here and there (see update below). Maybe the catfish really did bite off more than it could chew.

One thing I do know is that where catfish are concerned, fact can be stranger than fiction. According to urban legend, divers in the U.S. have seen catfish the size of automobiles lurking in the deep waters at the base of dams, but in other parts of the world, Southeast Asia for example, giant catfish weighing as much as 600 lbs. are a reality. South America is home to "talking catfish" which make croaking sounds by rubbing their pectoral fins against their shoulder bones. Most amazing of all is the dread candiru, a tiny, one-inch specimen native to the Amazon Basin. It is known for crawling into people's genital openings and painfully lodging itself in the urethra by means of its prickly gill spines.

Update: An alert reader pointed me to a May 30, 2004 article in the Wichita Eagle which appears to be the origin of this story and at least one of the photos. According to reporter Michael Pearce, Wichita resident Bill Driver was standing on the deck of his home overlooking a lake when he saw an eight-inch ball bobbing in the water. "Noticing the ball wasn't floating normally," Pearce wrote, "Driver wandered to his dock for a closer look. A catfish had its mouth stuck around the ball." The fish couldn't dive and appeared to be in distress, so, using a knife handed to him by his wife, Driver poked a hole in the ball and deflated it. The 50-pound fish swam away and is presumably doing well in deeper waters far from the dangers of human civilization.

Update: From the U.K., a report that a "massive" catfish choked to death after trying to eat a soccer ball in a Bavarian canal. (July 2, 2008)

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More fish tales:

The Man-Eating Catfish of Furong Reservoir
Internet photos purport to show a giant, man-eating catfish caught in the Furong Reservoir in Huadu, China.

Giant Catfish Caught in Lake Texoma, TX
Emailed photo - apparently real - of a huge, 140-pound catfish supposedly caught in Lake Texoma, Texas

Tales of the Candiru
Though very, very tiny, the candiru is a member of the catfish family and, according to the Enyclopedia Britannica, "has been known to enter the urethras of bathers and swimming animals"

A Whale of a Penis
Forwarded email accompanied by a photo purportedly depicting the penis of a blue whale claims that the male of that species produces over 400 gallons of sperm in a single mating session

Sources and further reading:

A Tough Pill to Swallow
Wichita Eagle, 30 May 2004

Last updated: 07/02/08

Current Hoaxes / Netlore
The Urban Legends Top 25

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