It may sound like the plot of a children’s educational cartoon, but one little copper rockfish in the Vancouver Aquarium was dealing with some pretty rough bullying from his fishy peers after he lost one of his eyes — that is, until veterinary experts at the aquarium decided to give him a new, non-functional prosthetic eye.
Even though the eye is merely aesthetic and can’t provide vision for the fish, it appears that the new eye has already begun serving its purpose.
After veterinarians found and removed cataracts in the rockfish’s eyes two years ago, one of the eyes failed to heal properly and had to be removed. Although the rockfish fully recovered and was capable of living happily in the aquarium with just one eye, it didn’t take long for his fellow fish to notice that something was up.
Vancouver Aquarium’s head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena recently that aggression is a common response for many animal species when they notice that one of their peers is more vulnerable than the others.
“What’s been observed with fish that are missing an eye,” Dr. Haulena explained, “is other fish take advantage of that… They kind of go to that blind side, steal food, and pick on [the fish].”
“Before the prosthetic, [this rockfish] was being hurt and [was] quite uncomfortable because he picked on.”
It’s hard to imagine that humans today would react similarly if one of their peers were missing an eye, but this story reveals an important truth: vision is one of the most essential survival mechanisms that nature has given to animals and humans alike. Although it’s possible to go through life with limited vision, there are plenty of reasons why proper eye health and clear vision are essential for a high quality of life.
As for the Vancouver rockfish, he seems to have acclimated to his two-eyed life back in the tank, although Global News Canada aptly notes that “[the] fish involved, lacking vocal cords, could not be available for comment.” Aquarium officials have been quick to note, however, that “[everybody], including the fish, [seems] a lot happier now.”