What Kind of Fish is Dory?

Walt Disney Studios
Walt Disney Studios

When Disney released their live-action adaptation of 101 Dalmatians in 1996, the charm of the dogs onscreen had a significant impact on sales of the breed. So much so, in fact, that animal activists voiced their concern that people were buying Dalmatians without understanding their unique temperament, leading to scores of Dalmatians ending up in shelters.

What does this have to do with 2003’s Finding Nemo or its 2016 sequel, Finding Dory? Both of these films led to millions of people becoming infatuated with the friendly Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), who has a very poor short-term memory. An untold number of children left theaters asking their parents, “What kind of fish is Dory?”

As shown by the Dalmatians, answering the question has led to some significant issues.

Dory is a Paracanthurus hepatus, or Pacific blue tang fish, that is sometimes referred to as a royal blue tang or hippo tang. The name is slightly misleading, since the blue tang isn’t always blue. At night, without light to reflect off its pigmentation, it can appear white with violet touches. When it’s young, it’s mostly yellow. Blue tangs typically feast on algae, keeping coral reefs from becoming overrun with them.

Like many tropical fish, blue tangs have never been successfully bred in commercial aquariums (though researchers at the University of Florida may have figured out a way to change that). Instead, fishermen capture them with cyanide—either squirting some at the fish directly or pumping it into the water—hoping the poison will lead some of them to the surface for easier scooping. Obviously, adding poison into a marine environment isn’t what conservationists would consider a smart move. It can pollute waters, damage reefs, and kill fish, even some time after the fact (organ failure is not uncommon among fish exposed to cyanide). Some estimate that half of the living things that come into contact with that cyanide will die immediately.

As you may have already guessed, wondering what kind of fish Dory is is a little bit more of a loaded question than just finding out her species. A “real” Dory might be laced with cyanide, be aggressive toward other fish (particularly other blue tangs), and can grow to be almost a foot long—a far cry from the diminutive, lovable character in the feature films. Demand for the fish could also lead to population problems.

For all of those reasons, if anyone in your household is wondering what kind of fish Dory is with an eye on obtaining one, the answer is simple: She's the kind you should really be leaving alone.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Do Lobsters Really Mate for Life?

iStock
iStock

It's a pop culture trope that mated lobsters stay together until they die. But is it true?

Nope. While plenty of animals practice long-term monogamy, lobsters are not among them. Lobsters actually mate by a weird system of serial monogamy. It's not exactly a one-night stand, but it's not a lifelong commitment either. Instead, a bunch of females take turns having a fling with the local dominant male that lasts a week or two and, if they're not happy with the amount of genetic material he's provided, then seek a little extra action.

It works like this: A female lobster who's ready to mate (which they can only do right after they've molted) hangs out near the den of the local dominant male and fans her pheromone-laced urine into his home. This relaxes the male, making him less aggressive and more receptive to mating. Then there's a brief courtship, and the male allows the female into his den.

Anywhere from a few hours to a few days later, the female slips into something a little more comfortable by shedding her exoskeleton. (Shacking up with the neighborhood tough guy guarantees her protection during this vulnerable time.) The pair mates, and the male deposits his sperm in the female. Once her new shell has hardened a week or two later, she takes off, and another female can have her turn. Often, the females in an area will stagger the timing of their molts to make their reproductive conga line more efficient. As soon as one female is done with the stud, the next one is already waiting to pee on his doorstep.

Sometimes, the male doesn't provide enough sperm to fully fertilize all of a female's eggs. In these cases, she'll leave before her new shell finishes forming to find and mate with another male (or males) until she collects enough sperm. Usually this requires just an extra dalliance or two, but as many as 10 have been reported.

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Could an Astronaut Steal a Rocket and Lift Off, Without Mission Control?

iStock
iStock

C Stuart Hardwick:

Not with any rocket that has ever thus far carried a person into orbit from Earth, no. Large rockets are complex, their launch facilities are complex, their trajectories are complex, and the production of their propellants is complex.

Let me give you one simple example:

  • Let’s say astro-Sally is the last woman on Earth, and is fully qualified to fly the Saturn-V.
  • Further, let’s say the Rapture (which as I understand it, is some sort of hip-hop induced global catastrophe that liquefies all the people) has left a Saturn-V sitting on the pad, raring to go.
  • Further, let’s grant that, given enough time, astro-Sally can locate sufficient documentation to operate the several dozen controls needed to pump the first stage propellant tanks full of kerosene.
  • Now what? Oxidizer, right? Wrong. First, she has to attend to the batteries, oxygen, hydrogen, and helium pressurant tanks in her spacecraft, otherwise it’s going to be a short, final flight. And she’ll need to fill the hypergolics for the spacecraft propulsion and maneuvering systems. If she screws that up, the rocket will explode with her crawling on it. If she gets a single drop of either of these on her skin or in her lungs, she’ll die.
  • But okay, maybe all the hypergolics were already loaded (not safe, but possible) and assume she manages to get the LOX, H2, and HE tanks ready without going Hindenburg all over the Cape.
  • And…let’s just say Hermione Granger comes back from the Rapture to work that obscure spell, propellantus preparum.
  • All set, right? Well, no. See, before any large rocket can lift off, the water quench system must be in operation. Lift off without it, and the sound pressure generated by the engines will bounce off the pad, cave in the first stage, and cause 36 stories of rocket to go “boom.”
  • So she searches the blockhouse and figures out how to turn on the water quench system, then hops in the director’s Tesla (why not?) and speeds out to the pad, jumps in the lift, starts up the gantry—and the water quench system runs out of water ... Where’d she think that water comes from? Fairies? No, it comes from a water tower—loaded with an ample supply for a couple of launch attempts. Then it must be refilled.

Now imagine how much harder this would all be with the FBI on your tail.

Can a rocket be built that’s simple enough and automated enough to be susceptible to theft? Sure. Have we done so? Nope. The Soyuz is probably the closest—being highly derived from an ICBM designed to be “easy” to launch, but even it’s really not very close.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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