25 March 2013

How the puffin holds all those little fish

I've seen the photos and wondered about it, and so have you.  He must have amazing diving and fishing skills, but how does he grab and hold the eleventh sand eel* without letting go of the first ten?

The discussion thread at Reddit eventually led me to this photo at Living Wilderness -

- and a note that "An Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) shows off its tongue, which is specially adapted to allow it to carry many fish in its bill at one time. Atlantic puffins typically carry about 10 fish in their bills at one time, using their tongues to hold their catch against spines on their palate."

Also of interest is that the male puffin sheds that colorful outer layer of its beak after the courting season is over:

The sheath has separated from the bill. Light passing through the thin covering makes it look yellowish gray. The entire sheath has moved forward and downward, partly covering the nasal opening.
You learn something every day.

* a link for those who, like me, need to look up what a sand eel is.

Middle photo credit


  1. I am glad you are so curious

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post, it really satisfied my curiosity for a brief moment! I recently started a blog and I would love for you to follow it!


    1. Greetings, Seba -

      I don't know whether you know that there is already a blog called "Not Exactly Rocket Science" -


      It is a famous, award-winning blog that was recently incorporated into the National Geographic website. Quite an honor.

      I'll assume that the title of your blog was independently created, and that you're not trying to ride on the coattails of Ed's blog. I will pop in to visit yours from time to time. Best wishes with the venture.

  3. Oh I never knew that, and did not have the intention of copying the name! But on another note your blog is very enjoyable and I have learned very interesting things!

    1. Welcome on board. If you have lots of free time, there are 11,000 old posts to browse through; the best way to access them is via the "categories" in the right sidebar. You would probably like the "medicine" and "science" ones best.

  4. Amazingly beautiful pictures !!!!


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