How the Hell Does This Fish Get Around?

Illustration for article titled How the Hell Does This Fish Get Around?

That’s a legitimate scientific question. Multiple teams of researchers have wondered how the yellow boxfish manages to swim when it looks like someone attached fins to a cube of cheese. Find out how this thing moves.

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If you’re wondering how this tiny, bright, cube-shaped fish doesn’t end up becoming the snack of every other fish on the reef, the answer is simple. The fish, when under stress, excretes so much poison that it can kill not only the fish that eats it, but any fish that even come near it. But it also has to feed itself, and that must be a challenge for something so clumsy.

For a while, it looked like this fish had the ultimate way to get around. Not only did the cube-ishness reduce on drag, claimed the Mercedes-Benz engineers who designed a car based on the fish, but the box shape created little vortices which allowed the fish to stabilize itself in the water. When the fish got tilted off course a vortex would be created around the edges of its shell (and its shape is due to a shell, not weirdly-cubic flesh), and the vortex would tug it back into place.

Turns out, that was wrong. Engineers made 3-D printed models of the fish and found that it not only has far more drag than other fish as it swims, it’s very unstable. It always gets twisted and turned as it swims, and that’s a good thing. According to the paper they wrote on the subject, “destabilizing moments enhance manoeuvrability, which is in accordance with the ecological demands for efficient turning and tilting.”

In other words, this fish uses its unstable swimming to turn more easily. And when it really needs to keep itself to a straight line? That’s what its fins are for.

Image: Zsispeo

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Ugh, those scientists got it all wrong on so many levels! You see those spots on the fish? Those give the fish the power to create tiny portals, or space warps as most scientists call them. And while using those space warps, the yellow box fish can instantly move itself or any part of its body from one area to another over a theoretically unlimited distance via another dimension nicknamed “Spotworld.”

The spots are unaffected by gravity and can be placed against a surface or left suspended in mid-air. It can also designate which spots will lead to the spot dimension from those that will instantly lead to another location in this dimension. It can create new spots, or close them entirely by retreating into its dimension. A perfect method to avoid large predators.

They are at some times even a bit aggressive. Their preferred method of attack is to surround the opponent with numerous spots, allowing the fish to punch or kick them from unexpected angles across great distances.

It looks something like this: