A rainbow trout ate nearly 20 shrews at Alaska's Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.
Researchers at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Alaska were shocked when in August of 2009 they cut open a 19-inch rainbow trout to find 19 shrews in its stomach, LiveScience.com reported
Why the find made headlines four years after the discovery was made was not reported.
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Though rainbow trout are known for being opportunistic predators, often eating small mammals such as shrews and rodents that for one reason or another wind up in the water, the amount was a shock to the researchers who made the discovery.
It's "an awful lot for one fish to put down," Togiak National Wildlife Refuge fish biologist Mark Lisac told LiveScience.com.
The consumption of 19 shrews trumps a previous find by researchers, who had earlier found seven shrews inside the belly of a grayling, another species of fish.
Trent Sutton, a fisheries biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, explained to LiveScience.com how the trout could have swallowed so many shrews at one time.
"Top predators, like trout, have large distensible stomachs that allow them to consume large prey items or a lot of smaller items," Sutton said. "I do not know why there would be a lot of shrews where a trout could access them though."
According to Lisac, the trout was likely able to consume so many shrews over a short period of time because they aren't good swimmers and often drowned if they should fall into a body of water.
"My best guess is that the shrews were on an island [or river bank] that flooded, and the rainbow happened to be in the right spot at the right time," Lisac said.
In preparation for the winter months, when they live largely sedentary lives spending little time searching for food, many fish including trout will feed heavily during the summer months, which is why the trout might have ingested so many shrews at one time.
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In addition to shrews, trout, and other predatory fish in Alaska, more frequently feast on salmon eggs, insects and smaller fish, LiveScience.com noted.
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