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Why fish don't taste salty

It's the chloride in their gills

Dear Matthew Alice: Why doesn’t fish taste salty? Whenever I swim in salt water, I taste salty. What’s the deal? (P.S., T-shirt: X-L for my hubby!) — Too Much Time on My Hands, San Diego

I guess it was inevitable.... Mass confusion reigns in Aliceland once again. I hope, Mrs. Too Much, you haven’t thrown out any old T-shirts in anticipation of the new one you’d get from your old friend Matt. Well, we’ll get to your extra-large hubby in just a moment. But first, if I understand your question correctly, you want to know why (marine) fish don’t taste like blocks of salt In fact, it’s a wonder marine fish can live in such a salty environment in the first place since, given the laws of chemistry (in this case, osmosis), all their body fluids should be constantly seeping out. To the rescue come chloride cells in their gills, the main component of marine fish anatomy that helps remove the salt they suck up. It’s a fairly complex process, involving special cell components (mitochondria) and a tubular network that extracts the salt and squirts it back out the gills. As it is, marine fish have to work hard to keep their body chemistries in balance, considering they’re living in a medium that’s about four times saltier than they are.

Now that you have your answer, it’s time to turn to the back of the paper and find the “Reader Puzzle” section, because you ain’t getting no free shirts from me. All that T-shirt talk a month or so ago was about the T you can win if you solve the puzzle correctly. The “Reader Puzzle" is the section for people who are smart and know lots of things. This is “Straight From The Hip," the section for people who don’t know diddly. Why should we reward that accomplishment with free clothes?


Here’s an addendum to the “tree huggers” question of a few weeks ago (what are they, and do people really hug trees?), and an opportunity for all of you to further confuse “Straight From The Hip” with the Classifieds section. The note comes from Mike, who declined to include an address. “Just a little note to let you know your info about 'tree huggers’ was inaccurate. I know a girl who hugs trees. Seriously. She goes to U.C.-Santa Cruz, and she and her friends go out hiking and they’ll all hug trees along the way. They also wedge little pieces of orange peel in the bark so the tree can ‘experience’ another life form. 1 never got into their reasoning or what it all meant, but 1 assume it’s ’60s related. Also, we need a singer for our band [Spill]. If you know a talented vocalist, send this along (Lucy’s Fur Coat vein of music). We’re pretty damned good.”

Well, sure, Mike, at Santa Cruz they probably hug trees. But I think the question was from someone who wanted to know about the planet Earth

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Dear Matthew Alice: Why doesn’t fish taste salty? Whenever I swim in salt water, I taste salty. What’s the deal? (P.S., T-shirt: X-L for my hubby!) — Too Much Time on My Hands, San Diego

I guess it was inevitable.... Mass confusion reigns in Aliceland once again. I hope, Mrs. Too Much, you haven’t thrown out any old T-shirts in anticipation of the new one you’d get from your old friend Matt. Well, we’ll get to your extra-large hubby in just a moment. But first, if I understand your question correctly, you want to know why (marine) fish don’t taste like blocks of salt In fact, it’s a wonder marine fish can live in such a salty environment in the first place since, given the laws of chemistry (in this case, osmosis), all their body fluids should be constantly seeping out. To the rescue come chloride cells in their gills, the main component of marine fish anatomy that helps remove the salt they suck up. It’s a fairly complex process, involving special cell components (mitochondria) and a tubular network that extracts the salt and squirts it back out the gills. As it is, marine fish have to work hard to keep their body chemistries in balance, considering they’re living in a medium that’s about four times saltier than they are.

Now that you have your answer, it’s time to turn to the back of the paper and find the “Reader Puzzle” section, because you ain’t getting no free shirts from me. All that T-shirt talk a month or so ago was about the T you can win if you solve the puzzle correctly. The “Reader Puzzle" is the section for people who are smart and know lots of things. This is “Straight From The Hip," the section for people who don’t know diddly. Why should we reward that accomplishment with free clothes?


Here’s an addendum to the “tree huggers” question of a few weeks ago (what are they, and do people really hug trees?), and an opportunity for all of you to further confuse “Straight From The Hip” with the Classifieds section. The note comes from Mike, who declined to include an address. “Just a little note to let you know your info about 'tree huggers’ was inaccurate. I know a girl who hugs trees. Seriously. She goes to U.C.-Santa Cruz, and she and her friends go out hiking and they’ll all hug trees along the way. They also wedge little pieces of orange peel in the bark so the tree can ‘experience’ another life form. 1 never got into their reasoning or what it all meant, but 1 assume it’s ’60s related. Also, we need a singer for our band [Spill]. If you know a talented vocalist, send this along (Lucy’s Fur Coat vein of music). We’re pretty damned good.”

Well, sure, Mike, at Santa Cruz they probably hug trees. But I think the question was from someone who wanted to know about the planet Earth

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