The way you see it, an animal which spends its life on the lake floor or seafloor must be dirtier than the clean, crisp salmon cruising above. But as with many misconceptions instilled into us by modern society, those poor bottom -feeders might deserve far more credit than you give them.
Animals like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, squid, octopus, shrimp and shellfish are all classified as bottom -feeders. Let’s get to the bottom of things (surprisingly, pun unintended) and sort out fact from fiction.
Halibut Flounder Plaice Sole Eel Cod Haddock Bass Grouper Carp Snapper Sardines Catfish Shark So, after the startling revelation that you’ve been eating bottom -feeders all your life, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
Here’s a rundown of which bottom -feeding species provide a net benefit for your health, and which you should probably avoid. The fact that they spend their lives immersed in mineral-rich waters means they’re fantastically nutrient dense.
In many cases, shellfish provide vitamins and minerals which you’d be hard-pressed to find in any land-based animal or plant. And because you generally eat the whole animal (not a particular section like with beef or chicken), you’re getting the full spectrum of nutritional goodness from your mussel or oyster.
Not only are they amazingly rich and delicious in a nice white wine or garlic sauce, they also have plenty of nutrients and antioxidants. These include folate, thiamine, riboflavin, magnesium, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc.
Many of these are really difficult to obtain from other food sources, making them an important go-to within your weekly diet. With something that tastes so good, you’ll be pleased to hear that scallops are an excellent nutritional choice.
With pigs, if they’re allowed to roam and forage for the foods they want, their meat is amazingly nutritious. So too with these members of the phylum Arthropods, which are always wild caught (aside from some crayfish, but these farmed varieties are generally okay to eat as well).
While shrimp doesn’t really compare to other shellfish in terms of its nutritional properties, it’s still a good source of protein. It also has decent levels of selenium and calcium, and is a good source of iodine and B vitamins.
Certainly, you could do worse than to eat shrimp, but you need to make sure you source good quality varieties. This is doubly true for bottom -feeding fish like sardines, mackerel and anchovies.
That’s because their small size means they’re less capable of bio accumulating heavy metals like mercury. You’re much more likely to get heavy metal poisoning from large predatory fish like tuna or salmon than these little critters.
Due to their highly unsustainable fishing track record and the fact that the common Atlantic varieties tend to be contaminated with heavy metals, they should be avoided if possible. American eel is often found in sushi in the U.S. and is generally very high in PCs and mercury.
For thousands of years, much of the Western world has avoided and reviled pigs due to their wide-ranging diet. For the song by Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, see Theater Is Evil.
Examples of bottom feeding fish species groups are flatfish (halibut, flounder, plaice, sole), eels, cod, haddock, bass, grouper, carp, bream (snapper) and some species of catfish and shark. This feeding strategy allows bottom feeders to take advantage of the dead organic material that drifts down through bodies of water to the floor.
In ocean environments, this downward drift of detritus is known as marine snow. Bottom feeders may gather detritus manually, as some crab species do, or filter it out of the water using suspension feeding.
This recycling of organic matter is critical for the health of many aquatic environments as it helps maintain various biogeochemical cycles. In 2014, it was reported that deep sea bottom feeders absorb carbon dioxide by eating creatures such as jellyfish and cephalopods, allowing the gas to be contained at the sea floor rather than be recycled back into the atmosphere.
Other bottom feeders graze on living plants, as is the case in some sea urchin species. Lastly, some bottom feeders are carnivorous and specialize in either hunting other bottom feeders and benthic animals, or scavenging from sunken bodies.
Some carnivorous bottom feeders use the floor of their environment to ambush their prey. One common method is the animal using body movements to cover itself with sand or sediment, then attempting to catch unsuspecting prey with fast strikes.
Other animals burrow into the bottom and hunt with most of the body remaining buried, as in the case of oceanic Bobbie worms. In fish, most bottom feeders exhibit a flat ventral region to more easily rest their body on the substrate.
The exception may be the flatfish, which are laterally depressed but lie on their sides. Those bottom feeders with upward-pointing mouths, such as stargazers, tend to seize swimming prey.
Some flatfish such as halibut actually have a “migrating” eye that moves to the upward-facing side of the fish as it ages. In the aquarium, bottom feeders are popular as it is perceived that they will clean the algae that grows in the tank.
Generally, they are only useful for consuming the extra (fresh) food left by overfed or clumsy livestock; the added biomass of additional organisms means that the aquarium will likely be more dirty. Some specialized bottom feeders are more specifically sold as “algae eaters” to increase the amount of free oxygen and aesthetic appeal of a tank.
“Linking the Bottom to the Top in Aquatic Ecosystems : Mechanisms and Stressors of Benthic-Pelagic Coupling”. ^ Dash, Pagan & Keisha, Iranian & Manual, Sugar.
Marine snow: Its formation and significance in fisheries and aquaculture. “A New Reason to Love Bottom Feeders: They Suck Up Carbon”.
A study of a marine benthic community with special reference to the micro-organisms. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 25 (3), 517-554. Doi:10.1017/S0025315400055132 ^ “Fish against Monster Worms”.
Among the species most popularly sought after by fishing enthusiasts is the gag grouper, a bottom feeder with less distinguished color markings than its cousins. They prefer waters in the 50-75 foot depth range, although the younger juveniles spend time closer to the shore.
Most often, large harems of this grouper variety swim near the sea floor underneath outcroppings of rock, below stands of coral, and around sunken vessels. Unlike other members of the grouper family, the gag does not develop yellow lines around the mouth, nor does it grow streamer points at the end of the tail fin.
Like all groupers, the gag variety reproduces only females, with a few of the largest adults undergoing a sex change brought on by behavioral triggers. Dropping in a heavier line straight to the bottom with a live bait hook is the preferred method of attracting this species.
Experienced anglers usually prefer heavier equipment, especially if bottom fishing in waters exceeding a depth of 60 feet. Using a lighter line or softer drag often results in the fish escaping to a nearby hole or underneath an outcropping.
Both fish have similar habitats, and most experienced fishermen suggest using the same bait for groupers that has been proven reliable for snappers and other locally found bottom feeders. Nearly every fishing tour company in the Key West area will book day trips for those wanting to catch gags and other groupers.
Some of the most favored grouper habitats are within several miles of Key West, and many of these are on sandy reefs just south of the island.