The monster in the cave

The monster in the cave

Here, catch!” cried Tracy, the trout, as she threw the ball hard at her friend, Sandy the salmon fish. Tracy and Sandy were two small fish who lived...

Nature Narratives-4

Here, catch!” cried Tracy, the trout, as she threw the ball hard at her friend, Sandy the salmon fish. Tracy and Sandy were two small fish who lived in the lake of Ozark, in Missouri, USA.“I got it! I got it!” cried Sandy, but she missed the ball by a few metres. “You are such a bad player”, wailed Tracy, “You keep dropping the ball!” “I’m trying my best, can’t you see?” panted Sandy, “It’s just that I’m tired after the long day at school.”

“You always make dumb excuses”, snapped Tracy, “I saw you dozing away in every class today. And you were snoring loudly in the Geography class too.” “Well, the ball is mine, you know”, she replied. “Be thankful we’ve got a new ball to play with! My dad was quite annoyed when I asked him for a new one again. Rolling up plankton to make a good ball isn’t all that easy.”

“Whose fault was that? I didn’t eat up our ball”, said Tracy slyly, “I remember someone telling me that she was feeling very, very, hungry and the next thing I knew, she had gobbled it up!” Sandy was red in the face. It was she who had eaten up the ball that day. Balls were made up of plankton and were quite edible. Now she felt quite ashamed of herself.

“Alright, no need to rub it in so much”, she said gruffly, and threw the ball with all her might. The ball sped forward through the water, but before Tracy could catch it, it got caught in a strong current of water that went towards the bottom of the lake. “Oh no! What do we do now?” cried Tracy in alarm. At the bottom of the lake was the cave region, with strange creatures and dark tunnels. Sunlight hardly penetrated this region, and most fish avoided it.

One always heard gruesome tales of deadly monsters that inhabited the caves. “I can’t lose that ball. Let’s go after it”, cried Sandy, and swam bravely towards the cave. Tracy was scared, but followed her. They saw their ball going into a dark tunnel along with the current. “I’ll wait for it to come out at the other end!” said Tracy, and stood guard at the exit. But the ball never came out.

“Where’s it gone?” wondered Tracy. “I think I heard someone munching it inside the cave”, said Sandy. “My ball’s gone! Eaten by some monster in the cave!” she started sobbing. “Sshh…!! The monster will hear us!” whispered Tracy, “Do you think it’s the same monster that ate up poor Sally salamander?” “I’m not going back without my ball. I’m going to find out who this monster is”, Sandy said, wiping away her tears.

Looking around, she found some dead leaves, a little plankton and litter, which she rolled up into a ball. Then she tied a long string to it. With one end of the string in her fin, she threw the ball inside the cave. Moments later, they heard a gulp. “Now, PULL!!” cried Sandy, and both pulled the string with all their might, so that the monster which had eaten the ball would be dragged out of the cave. “There he is!” cried Tracy, “You monst….” She could not complete her sentence.

She was shocked by what she saw. In front of them was a small fish, about two inches long, white in colour, and ….. with NO EYES !! “Don’t hurt me”, pleaded the tiny fish. “Who are you? We thought you are a huge monster who eats up other fishes!”said Sandy. “I am an Ozark Cavefish”, replied the creature, “I only eat plankton or any litter that the water current brings here to the cave.” “Where are your eyes?” demanded Tracy.

“We cavefish don’t have eyes”, he said, “We lost our ability to see many generations ago. What is the use of sight in this pitch dark region? We just eat what the water currents bring to us. Nature has taken away our sight, which is no longer useful to us.” Before going back into the cave, he said, “Please don’t disturb us anymore. We are not monsters, all we want is a place to live peacefully. I’m sorry I ate up your ball. That’s the only way I get my food.” Tracy and Sandy were feeling quite sorry about what they had done. They swam back to their homes in silence.

All about the cavefish

Does the Ozark Cavefish really exist? Yes it does! The Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae, belonging to the family of fishes called Amblyopsidae, is a freshwater fish native to the United States of America. It is found in the dark environments of caves and deep lakes, is pinkish-white in colour and about two inches long. As an adaptation to its pitch-dark environment, the cavefish has lost its ability to see. It has no eyes and no optic nerve.

A cavefish uses sense organs located on the sides of its head, body and tail to find food such as plankton, isopods, amphipods, crayfish, salamander larvae and bat guano. Caves have a limited supply of food and nutrients, so the cavefish depends on resources brought in from the outside.

By:Sneha Verghese

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