The Sheepshead fish
), also known as "convict fish" because of its "prison stripes," belongs to the family Sparidae
which includes some even weirder fish. According to the Scientifiic American
, some species of the family Sparidae
experiment with forms of "LGBT" lifestyles that would shock anti-gay fundamentalists. Some are hermaphrodites while others change from female to male (progogyny), or from male to female (protandry).
Some members of the Sparidae
family such as Salema porgy
), nicknamed "dreamfish" taste great, but you risk falling into a drug induced psychedelic trance if you eat the flesh. Scientific American
reports that Salema porgy was used for recreational hallucinogenic purposes in the ancient Roman empire and was used in traditional Polynesian ceremonies.
Eating parts of Salema porgy, including the head, could cause a condition known as ichthyosarcotoxism
, a form of poisoning caused by toxins of the marine plankton Gambierdiscus toxicus
. The poisoning, according to Scientific American
, causes florid hallucinations and nightmares that could last several days.
reports that de Haro and Pommier of the Center for Antipoison, Hospital Salvator, Marseilles, France wrote a paper in a 2006 issue of Clinical Toxicology
, in which they described an incident involving a 90-year-old man who ate a Salema porgy in Saint Tropez in 2002. Soon after, the man began hallucinating and experiencing terrible nightmares in which he saw people and birds screaming.
According to the authors in the paper entitled "Hallucinatory fish poisoning (ichthyoallyeinotoxism): two case reports from the Western Mediterranean and literature review,"
the man thought he was going mad and "fearing that these symptoms might signal the beginning of a major mental illness, he did not tell his friends or attending physician. The manifestations abated three days after he had eaten the fish."
The authors also reported the case of a 40-year-old man who suffered ichthyosarcotoxism after he ate Salema porgy while vacationing in the French Riviera. Like the 90-year-old, he had hallucinations of screaming animals and saw giant spiders attacking his car.
reports that in 2009, a man named Andy Giles caught a Salema porgy in the English Channel, about six miles south of Polperro, Cornwall. The catch was unusual because the fish are normally found in warmer waters of the Mediterranean and African west coast. Giles told The Telegraph
: "We were trawling for lemon sole and hauled up the net at the end of the day and almost immediately saw this striped fish, we didn't have a clue what it was. I had never seen one before and after taking a photograph of it I tried to look it up on the Internet and called some friends to see if they knew what it was. I put it in the fish box and brought it back for experts to have a look at it. Now I realise what it was and the effects it can have, perhaps I should have taken it into town to sell to some clubbers!"
Even though the human teeth are spooky, sheepshead fish won't make you lose your mind temporarily when you eat it. The Scientific American
explains that they are common North American marine species found in waters from Cape Cod and Massachusetts to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. The live along the coast around rock pilings, jetties mangroves, reefs and piers. They can grow up to 30 inches (760 mm), but usually reach up to 10 to 20 in, and can weigh up to 9.6 kg.
An adult sheepshead has human-like incisors at the front of its jaws. It has three rows of molars in the upper jaw and two in the lower.
Like humans, its teeth are well adapted to an omnivorous diet of plants and animal tissues. It has a second set of "grinders" behind its human-like teeth which are used for crushing shelled prey.