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.

What is a Polar Vortex?

Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you’ve turned on the news or stepped outside lately, you're familiar with the record-breaking cold that is blanketing a lot of North America. According to The Washington Post, a mass of bone-chilling air over Canada—a polar vortex—split into three parts at the beginning of 2019, and one is making its way to the eastern U.S. Polar vortexes can push frigid air straight from the arctic tundra into more temperate regions. But just what is this weather phenomenon?

How does a polar vortex form?

Polar vortexes are basically arctic hurricanes or cyclones. NASA defines them as “a whirling and persistent large area of low pressure, found typically over both North and South poles.” A winter phenomenon, vortexes develop as the sun sets over the pole and temperatures cool, and occur in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere (roughly, between six and 31 miles above the Earth’s surface).

Where will a polar vortex hit?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the vortexes move in a counterclockwise direction. Typically, they dip down over Canada, but according to NBC News, polar vortexes can move into the contiguous U.S. due to warm weather over Greenland or Alaska—which forces denser cold air south—or other weather patterns.

Polar vortexes aren't rare—in fact, arctic winds do sometimes dip down into the eastern U.S.—but sometimes the sheer size of the area affected is much greater than normal.

How cold is a polar vortex?

So cold that frozen sharks have been known to wash up on Cape Cod beaches. So cold that animal keepers at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada once decided to bring its group of king penguins indoors for warmth (the species lives on islands north of Antarctica and the birds aren't used to extreme cold.) Even parts of Alabama and other regions in the Deep South have seen single-digit temperatures and wind chills below zero.

But thankfully, this type of arctic freeze doesn't stick around forever: Temperatures will gradually warm up.

In What Field Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Doctor?

Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Martin Luther King, Jr. earned a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. He’d previously earned a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary. His dissertation, “A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” examined the two religious philosophers’ views of God in comparison to each other, and to King’s own concept of a "knowable and personal" God.

Some three decades after he earned his doctorate, in 1989, archivists working with The Martin Luther King Papers Project discovered that King’s dissertation suffered from what they called a “problematic use of sources.” King, they learned, had taken a large amount of material verbatim from other scholars and sources and used it in his work without full or proper attribution, and sometimes no attribution at all.

In 1991, a Boston University investigatory committee concluded that King had indeed plagiarized parts of his dissertation, but found that it was “impractical to reach, on the available evidence, any conclusions about Dr. King's reasons for failing to attribute some, but not all, of his sources.” That is, it could have been anything from malicious intent to simple forgetfulness—no one can determine for sure today. They did not recommend a posthumous revocation of his degree, but instead suggested that a letter be attached to the dissertation in the university library noting the passages lacked quotations and citations.

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

This article was originally published in 2013.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER