Critter of the Week: Leedsichthys

Meet Gulper. He’s the biggest, most easy-going fish in the sea.  All he wants in life is to drift through nice sunny waters.  He’d love it if you joined him for a swim, and you’re welcome to hitch a ride on his fin. 🙂


Dr. Pete Diggle checked the mail this morning, and he showed me a letter with a very interesting question…

Dear Mr. Diggle,

I have a question for you. Last week I visited the Paleo Aquarium with my family and saw a giant fish that looks just like Gulper. How do they get a fish that big into the tank?!

Thank you for answering my question.

–  Jimmy Fisher


Dear Mr. Fisher,

Thank you for your question! It’s a delight to answer questions, and I’ll do my best to give you a good answer.

Usually we try to transport fish as large as Leedsychthis when they are still quite young, and a much more manageable size. But sometimes these giant fish need to be moved when they are older, and much bigger.


leedsichthys_size comparison


It can be a bit tricky to safely transport a fish that’s 50 feet long, so we start with months of planning. Depending on the length of the trip and the size of the fish, like Gulper here, just the planning and preparation stages can take up to a year!

When moving day comes, the divers go into the tank and use nets and treats to encourage the giant fish to swim into a padded sling. The sling is thick and spongy so that Gulper will be comfortable in it, and strong enough so that a crane can lift him out of the water and into a large tank made specifically for his safe travels.


gulper transportflat.jpg
The giant Leedsychthis is carefully lifted by crane in a specially made sling…


The tank is only as big as Gulper himself, and he stays in the padded sling to make sure he is safe during the trip. Like you wear your seat belt in the car. The tank is then carefully loaded onto a flatbed trailer of a semi truck.

The truck takes Gulper to the train station, and there the tank is carefully loaded into an insulated boxcar, where Gulper’s team of caretakers have a small lab with all the tools they need to make sure he is comfortable and safe on his way to his new home. The boxcar is a slightly more roomy 60′ long, compared to the semi trailer’s length of 53′. So space is tight, but Gulper’s caretakers have a little more space to move around.

In the train car, Gulper and his caretakers have everything they need to make their travels as safe and comfortable as possible. Extra oxygen in the water, a hose in case Gulper needs water squirted into his mouth to help his gills collect all the oxygen they need, tools to test the quality of the water. They even have a special heater attached to the tank to make sure the water is the temperature Gulper is most comfortable with. The tank has a specially designed, clear lid to keep water from splashing out.

The train engineer also has instructions for his special cargo. He accelerates and breaks the train slowly, and only takes the tracks with no dips or hills, and slow, wide turns. This way the water in the tank doesn’t slosh very much, and Gulper is calm and comfortable. This way it is also safer for Gulper’s caretakers.

When the train arrives at the station, then a crane loads the heavy tank onto the flatbed trailer of another truck. Everything is ready to go in advance, even to make sure there is no traffic or football game going on that night that might make Gulper’s journey more difficult.

At the aquarium, everything is ready for the new arrival. It would be impossible to bring a fish as big as Gulper through the doors, so they have to lower him in through the roof. It doesn’t take long for the giant fish to start exploring his new home! Since the aquarium tank holds 6.8 million gallons of water, there is plenty of room to explore.

Don’t hesitate to write back if you have any more questions!

Stay curious,

– Dr. Pete Diggle


(Thank you for the question Kaprosaurus! It really gave me food for thought, and it turns out that the aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia transported 4 whale sharks all the way from Taipei, Taiwan! They rescued the 30′ sharks from fishing nets, two males and two females, and the sharks now live in an exhibit that holds 6.8 million gallons of water!)

Making progress…

Starting progress on Steggy’s little habitat! And I’ve quickly learned a couple of things about this Fix-it-all stuff.

  • It’s super dusty, so be careful that a big cloud doesn’t poof out when you open the bag. (no worries, I used scissors to prevent this, so I didn’t breathe any of the stuff)
  • It dries fast. Like, insanely fast! Next time I will work in sections, so that I can sink the rocks and stuff into it and not bother with glue. I worked around this by making a thinner paste of the stuff. 🙂


Not finished, so not as much progress as I hoped…but hey, any progress is awesome progress when it comes to Thanksgiving weekend! 😀 If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful day filled with thankfulness, family, and friends. If you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, then I still hope you had a wonderful day filled with thankfulness, family, and friends, whether it had turkey in it or not. 😉

I’ll be using the bits of branch in the corner there as the armature for my tree. I’ll stick the two bits together with clay, and just bake it at a low enough temperature that it doesn’t catch fire in the toaster oven. 😀 Not sure what I’ll use for the leaves yet. It’s a gnarly cedar tree with its roots holding the bank in place, so maybe some sponges will be good for the foliage. Either way the stuff just needs to be good enough to know where shadows go. I can draw in details where necessary. 🙂

Now it just needs the tree, some cycads, ferns, and other foliage scattered here and there, the “elevator”, and the people…sounds like a lot when I put it in a list like that. Hopefully I can get it done quickly. I’m really starting to feel the ticking clock lately. Wish me luck! 😀

Overall I’m quite pleased with how it’s turning out so far. 😀


Coming Next Week…

This little fuzzball likes to party at night. 🙂

Share your guess in the comments! She’s one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂

7 thoughts on “Critter of the Week: Leedsichthys

  1. No problem with the question! I was also interested on how they move huge cetaceans on tanks,i guess same could be said about Gulper.But you don’t have to create a whole section of a blog post about it! And you mentioned the train,so does that mean it’s canon?! :O And the diorama looks really good now,the situation fleshes out more,you work so fast! 🙂 Next on the COTW train is……. Maya!


    1. Hi Kaprosaurus, thank you so much! 😀

      I’ve always liked it when characters answer reader questions, and your question was intriguing enough that I thought Pete could answer it. 🙂 As the paleo pet shop gains popularity it’d be cool to have one post out of the month dedicated to Pete “answering mail”, or even figuring out a way to have the critters answer questions.

      For example, if someone asks Alfred if he likes Birthday cake, I could draw a little doodle of what Alfred would do with it. 🙂

      As for if the train is canon…why not? 😀 most critters would be best transported by truck, or even on a plain in most circumstances. Gulper is so big and requires such special attention that I figured a train would work best.

      The problem with trains is that trains are best for transporting many loads at once. Trucks and planes are better suited for transporting one special load at a time. But I don’t see why train couldn’t be a transport option. Especially with so many large critters with special transport needs. 😀

      I’m glad you like the diorama, I’m really pleased with it too! I’ve been developing a clearer mental picture of the illustration while physically shaping the diorama. I may even be able to draw it faster, since my hands are already getting familiar with the shapes, and my mind’s eye is getting more clear in how it should look. 😀

      Next up is little Maya alright! She’s so small, Pete is probably just stepping onto a passenger car of the train with her in a little pet carrier. 😀


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