Fish In A Fish
January 4, 2015 10:32 PM   Subscribe

Can sardines get smaller fish growing inside them?

I just opened a can of sardines, and found one that had a smaller fish inside of it. I threw the can away, but now I'm freaked that sardines might have weird parasites or unborn twins inside them. Please help me figure out what happened so I don't have to give up on sardines forever.

It was definitely a fish and not a worm, as it was silver in color (seeing the flash of silver inside the crumbling sardine is what alerted me to its presence), and it had a head with two little eyes and two small flippers under the body. It was about 1/20 the size of the sardine, and was long and thin. It must have run along about half of the sardine's body.
posted by Kevin Street to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It could just be a smaller sardine processed with the bigger ones.
posted by Gneisskate at 10:36 PM on January 4, 2015

Response by poster: But it was definitely inside the larger fish. The sardine had broken in half while inside the can, which is when I noticed the silver color. I then had to pry the sardine apart to get the little fish out.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:54 PM on January 4, 2015

Fish-in-a-fish is not that unusual in larger, carnivorous fish - happens when the smaller fish gets swallowed whole right before the before the big fish gets caught.

Sardines are pretty small, but I'm guessing that's what happened here. Wikipedia is not very clear on the matter: apparently several kinds of fish are called sardines commercially, most of them are listed as feeding on plankton but for some smaller fish are also mentioned.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:02 PM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I find smaller fish inside fresh sardines prety regularly. I don't see why it couldn't happen with canned ones too.
posted by conifer at 12:30 AM on January 5, 2015

I found an intact, small, prawn-like creature tucked way up in the body of a whole fresh squid I bought once. It grossed me out at first but I still cleaned, cooked and ate the squid. I didn't eat 'its' lunch, though, because it would have seemed rude.
posted by evil_esto at 3:26 AM on January 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

I once caught a mackerel that had 10 baby mackerel in its stomach, one was only half way down its throat. Basically I positioned myself were they were feeding as I could see the water boiling where the school of mackerel goes into the fry to eat. They bite on anything at that point. If your fish was caught while feeding then it could easily have another smaller fish inside it.
posted by biffa at 5:06 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Every sardine I have ever eaten--and I eat a lot of sardines--has been split down the middle along the belly and gutted. So, even if your sardine had eaten a smaller fish, it would have been removed with the rest of the alimentary tract. My guess is that a smaller fish was forced into the body cavity of your sardine during the packing process.
posted by pullayup at 11:01 AM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I found a fish in a fish in the fancy King Oscar brand sardines. The "gourmet brisling" type. Both fish seemed very whole to me. Disturbingly whole. I found the inner fish because I have to mash sardines into a mush resembling canned tuna before I can bring myself to eat them.

Wikipedia says "They may also be eviscerated before packing (typically the larger varieties). If not, they should be purged of undigested or partially digested food ... by holding the live fish in a tank long enough for them to empty their digestive systems." Maybe that's where the little fish got eaten, was in the holding tank?
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:47 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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