Mirrorhead Trout Species in Cathedris | World Anvil

Cathedris Themesong

Mirrorhead Trout

River Artazia's flashiest species

  Within a wide, deep length of Artazia's largest river, is a species of fish known primarily for their incredibly reflective scales. Mirrorhead Trout are abundant within the waters of River Artazia, making their home in the wide, deep "lake section" known as the Deep Bend; living most of their life close enough to the surface for the light from the sun to catch and dance off of their mirror-like scales. They're known to often put on dazzling light shows as the fish swim in distinct patterns, reflecting rays of light in specific timings and methods in order to attract mates or small prey, warn of impending danger, or even distract predators.    

Visual Delight

Mirrorhead Trout are one of the most common fish found within the Deep Bend, and are visually distinct from the rest of the fish found in that portion of the lake, thanks to their incredibly reflective appearance. These fish grow to be around 50 or 60cm in length, and for most of their adult lives, their shiny scales appear as a soft purple or dark pink colour. During their fry or adolescent stages, these colours are generally a bit darker, and their scales not as reflective; it's thought this helps the young and still developing fish keep a low profile during these early stages.  
After a full year of development, once it reaches adulthood, the Trout's scales grow magnitudes more lustrous. The most reflective portion of the fish is found upon the top of their head as well as along the lateral line, a horizontal "line" that runs lengthwise about 2/3 of the way down from the top of the fish. Here the scales are most likely to catch the light and reflect it back in a dazzling display to their fellow fish.
 
  Other parts of a Mirrorhead Trout's body are highly reflective as well, however; the tips of their fins all have a hard and shiny bit of cartilage that isn't quite as shiny as their famous scales, but still manages to catch and spread light in a pleasing way. Their soft underbellies are mostly non-reflective, with a much thinner type of scale covering that portion of their body.    
It gets downright blinding upstream during Mirrorhead spawning season. Thousands of fish wriggling their way up that shallow rocky creek -- on an especially bright day it's like starin' into the surface of the sun.
— Deep Bend fisherman

Stats

Life Span
10-20 years
Incubation
4-6 weeks
 
Average Length
50-60cm
Average Weight
2-7lbs
 
Deep Bend Population
Estimated around 250,000, but rapidly dwindling

   

River Artazia

A massive glacier-fed river that runs from Artazia's central mountains to its western coast. Home to a large variety of fish, mammals, and amphibians.   The Deep Bend, the lake portion of River Artazia that the Mirrorhead Trout call home, is thought to be one of the deepest lakes anywhere within Cathedris. Countless rumours are told of strange and mythical beasts, ancient shipwrecks, and forgotten cities existing within the depths.

Dance of Light

The magnificent scales of a Mirrorhead Trout are used for a variety of behavioural purposes; for example, by swimming through a series of intricate movements, adult Mirrorheads are often seen attempting to attract a mate while in their ancestral spawning grounds of shallow gravel-bed creeks found pouring into the Deep Bend.   These reflective fish have other various movements they use to communicate certain things as well, often seen on a daily basis during a Mirrorhead's adult life within the lake. Much of their day is spent to feeding or hunting their prey -- small invertebrates or crustaceans that also reside in the like. These are hunted by the Mirrorheads through what's called "hypnotic flashing"; the fish will swim in tight concentric loops, attracting the small prey towards the spiralling light and luring them into a daze, allowing for what is most often rapid and easy capture.   Should one of the fish feel they are being threatened by another, larger predator however, they'll employ an entirely different set of movements. By swimming in rapid S-curves perpendicular to the predator chasing them, it's thought that the blinking light might make the predator lose track of the Mirrorhead. This also serves the dual purpose of warning any other fellow Mirrorhead Trout of the impending danger, signalling that it's time to retreat from the area.
 
Click the buttons to see how the Mirrorheads communicate!
  Attract
Hunt
Distract

Ecosystem

Every year, there's less of em... they're gettin' harder to catch, and the creeks just don't quite shine the way I remember they used to when I was a kid.
— Deep Bend fisherman
As the (current) dominant species of fish within the Deep Bend, Mirrorhead Trout play a vital role in their environment; as predators, they manage to keep the populations species considered "pests" by many under control, such as insect larvae and crustaceans that are inedible to humans. As prey, they manage to be an abundant and readily available food source for things such as bears and River Pilostras that like to feed on the shiny fish.  
They're also incredibly important to the humans that call the area home; the main staple food of all villages and cities that live on or near the Deep Bend is fish, and the main fish that's always eaten are Mirrorhead Trout. They're described to have a clean and fresh taste, one that's light yet manages to hold and combine with almost any seasoning delightfully.
  However, their popularity is part of their own downfall; while overfishing isn't entirely to blame for their rapidly dwindling numbers, it certainly plays a large part. Years ago, the Artazian government never considered setting catch limits a priority for Mirrorheads; there were so many, it was assumed humans would never make an impact on them. However, these days there's a limit of 2 fish caught per day, up to a monthly maximum of 50 fish per person.

Competition

Overfishing plays a part in the depletion of Mirrorhead Trout population, but the main impact is thought to be due to an invasive species of fish that have been quickly taking over the Deep Bend. Called a "Mudstelle", this seemingly endlessly reproducing invasive fish is originally from Kazcallen, but has made itself a new home in Artazia thanks to a misguided attempt at introducing a new predator to help balance the ecosystem more.
 




Cover image: Watery background by Tim Marshall, fish by Stormbril

Comments

Author's Notes

"Dance of Light" Water background by Jeremy Bishop


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Jul 27, 2023 23:19 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

I loooove them, and the animation is so fun.   I want like a billion fish articles because the way you draw fishies is so cute. <3

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jul 27, 2023 23:38 by Stormbril

I really want to keep drawing and writing new fishies too, it's been really fun :D Thank you Emy <3

Jul 28, 2023 15:23 by Melissa

All of your fish illustrations are fantastic, your art is amazing Stormbril! The swimming buttons are CSS pure magic. :D

Aug 8, 2023 15:49 by Stormbril

Aw, thank you so much! :D

Aug 12, 2023 19:28 by Molly Marjorie

This article is beautiful, not that I'm surprised. The fishies are too cute, and this is a great way to show how they move. But what I like most of all is how, instead of having the fish give off light, they reflect it, and communicate my manipulating that reflection. I wonder what they do on a cloudy day....

Check out Natural Magic : a coming of age fantasy novel, because life is hard enough when you're fourteen, even without saving the world. Or listen to it in podcast form .
Aug 14, 2023 16:02 by Stormbril

Thank you! :D   And that's actually such a wonderful question! There can be so many fascinating ways that plays into their ecosystem and life -- like perhaps during cloudy days, they prefer to remain more dormant, hiding out in certain areas as it's harder for them to communicate :o

Dec 4, 2023 04:45 by Reanna R

Shiny fish!!! I love them sm <3 their population had better make a recovery.   I love how rather than their shininess being a disadvantage, they can use it as a benefit in both hunting and defense.

May your worldbuilding hammer always fall true! Also, check out the world of the Skydwellers for lots of aerial adventures.
Jan 3, 2024 22:27 by Stormbril

There's a significant conservation movement pushing to help their numbers recover! Can't let these lil unique fishies die out D:

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