Even the scientists didn’t know what they
were looking at when they netted the little critter off the coast of
Vancouver Island. It looked like a dang tadpole in the salt sea, only
less attractive. Finally one took the pencil out from behind his pocket
protector and mined for earwax, squinted, reached all the way into the
recesses of his considerable education and said “Aw, I know what that
is. That, there, is a bony-eared assfish.”

soon as he said it, of course, everyone realized it had to be a
bony-eared assfish. The thing about a bony-eared assfish is it makes you
wonder what other kinds of assfish there are. Are there
semi-flammulated assfish? Gibbous-bellied assfish? Stippled or morose
assfish? I looked it up.
Well, what the hell. The only assfish
is the bony-eared one. That doesn’t really seem fair. Just the one
assfish. Seems like calling it an assfish is bad enough and the
bony-eared part is just piling on. Not that it’s that great-looking a
fish. It’s bony and flabby, all at once. Wouldn’t it have been more
polite to lump it in with the other bottom-fish?
Nobody actually knows how the bony-eared assfish got its name. Yes, it has an anus. But no cleavage, per se.
is some speculation that it has to do with the Greek name for the
species, bestowed upon it in 1887 by German ichthyologist Albert
Günther. He didn’t take the oppportunity to name it after himself, and
who can blame him? Anyway the Greek name means something like “bristly
cod,” which is sensible. But in Greek the word sounds like the word for “donkey.” Or ass. And since everyone who was anyone in the late nineteenth century could get a chuckle out of a good Greek pun, Assfish it was.
not that familiar with the bony-eared assfish because, one, it is
distinctly uncharismatic, and two, it’s at the dang bottom of the ocean,
and we’re not. Like a number of other critters in the vicinity, it
travels up to the surface at night for snacks. And back again before
daylight. It has the distinction of having the smallest
brain-to-body-weight of all the vertebrates, and it’s not like it weighs much. The best it can do is get half a notion. Like, I’ve got half a notion to go up to the surface when it gets dark. And half a notion is all it takes.
got to give it credit, though. The biggest migration, by numbers of
individuals, in the world is the migration of critters from the bottom
of the sea to the top and back again, conducted nightly. And how does
the little bony-eared assfish the hell know it’s nighttime? There’s no
light down there. How much darker can it get? But in its tiny little
brain it knows. The bony-eared assfish knows.
So, respect due.
the poor bony-eared assfish is no beauty. At its best, at the bottom of
the ocean, it is a sort of bristle-headed flaky thing with a skinny
tail. At least there it is relatively sleek, but when it rises, and the
pressure decreases on it, its cells swell up until it is a goobery mass
of sad jelly, still with the skinny tail. And then it sinks back down to
its previous ugly-but-not-gelatinous fish state.
a brain takes a lot of energy and if you don’t need your brain for any
more than popping up to the surface and back again you can let it
devolve over time. As it happens, we know our own human brains have
gotten smaller in the last 10,000 years. And things are happening in a
hurry, now. Speculation is that since we’re now storing information
outside of ourselves, in books, online, etc., we can get by with smaller
brains. I know mine can’t manage an article over 2,000 words anymore
and I’m lost if I have to remember a password. TL,DR. Precious few of us
know enough Greek anymore to be able to properly disparage a tiny
But assfish don’t care. Assfish keep making more assfish.
The lack of good lighting probably helps.
Note to Uncle Walt: So long, and thanks for all the assfish.