The swordfish (Xiphias gladius, literally translating to ‘swordfish sword,’ which is confusing but leaves no doubt as to what you need to remember about the swordfish) is one of a small number of animals with swords on their faces.1 Of these, they are by far the most massive, reaching almost fifteen feet in length (much of it sword) and 1,400 pounds in weight (some of it sword).2 They are also the sole member of family Xiphiidae; all the other members of the Xiphiidea family were found dead from sword wounds awhile back, and the police couldn’t make anything stick on their main suspect (the swordfish).
A swordfish’s nose sword isn’t for decoration (though it certainly is a lovely nose sword). Instead, the nose sword is an important tool that is useful in a variety of situations, like a Swiss Army Knife that’s always open and has only a blade and no toothpick. The swordfish’s nose sword literally cuts through the water, allowing the swordfish to easily reach speeds of 50 miles per hour (which is especially dangerous since they lack seat belts and they’re waving a pointy sword). This speed, combined with their agility and nose sword, makes them deadly hunters. Contrary to popular belief, swordfish do not ‘spear’ their prey; their hunting technique is to dart through schools of fish, slashing their sword noses around, hacking and/or stunning the confused fish who have never before seen a sword where a nose should be. On a given charge, a swordfish may feast on mackerel, bluefish, hake, herring, squid, giant drumsticks, mead, roast goose, suckling pig, jugs of wine, and sometimes their enemies’ hearts – all the while surrounded by comely serving wenches. Oh, and their eyes and brains are heated (while the rest of them is cold-blooded), improving their vision dramatically and giving them a huge advantage over other fish in the sea. Anyway, the main thing is that eating with a swordfish is a bit of a grab bag, what with all the slashing and hacking.
Did you get my dinner party evite? I’m slashing and hacking something special.
The nose sword-aided speed make swordfish largely invulnerable to predators. Since these fish are huge (and are equipped with huge nose swords), the only animals that might reasonably make a go at them are Killer Whales, a few large sharks, and, to a less-likely extent, Grizzly Bears. The shortfin mako shark is the rare animal fast enough to catch it, but even if it does, it must still contend with Sir Sword Nose. Head-to-head, a mako probably has only a slightly better chance of biting a swordfish with its mouthful of long, curved teeth before the swordfish runs it through the belly or gills, making Mako vs. Swordfish (Quarrel In The Coral) the pay-per-view event of the year.3
What say we leave the massive super fast fish with the sword on its face alone and go check out Magic Mountain?
In sum, the swordfish is a really impressive animal. Why? Because it is a giant, fast fish that, in lieu of a nose, has a sword coming off its face.
1 Thankfully, the last swordcheetah was killed by former President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 while on safari with his son Kermit.
2 They are often confused with sailfish, which also have swords for noses, but if anyone ever tells you that they caught a sailfish, you should inform them that sailfish rarely top the scales at more than 200 pounds and ten feet in length, and, you know, if they really wanted to go after something with a sword for a nose, they would have gone after a swordfish, but apparently they were too scared. (WARNING: They will probably then ask you to leave their daughter’s Quinceañera.)
3 This is one reason why it’s good to be human. We simply point at the leather-bound menu and the waiter says, ‘Le swordfish soup avec saffron rouille.’ And we nod and that’s all there is to it.