A really weird video of a fried fish twitching on a dinner plate in front of diners was caught on camera in a restaurant in Hengyang, Hunan Province in southern China.
The video shows the animal, placed next to other fried fish, twitch slightly before beginning to flail around – at which point a female begins to yell: ‘Oh no, no, no! It’s cracking!’.
The video was originally uploaded to Chinese social media site Weibo, and people are reportedly really creeped out by it. Which is believable.
The explanation is a reasonably simple one and also a pretty common phenomenon.
Although the brain and heart are not functioning, there are cells that can still respond to stimuli, for example, added sodium. Immediately after death, muscle motor neurons - the nerves that create movement within the tissue, which are triggered by electrical signals, still contain some membrane potential - difference in ion concentrations.
All cells are polarised, which means that there is a high-to-low gradient of charged atoms, or ions, from inside cells to outside them. The difference between these concentrations is what creates a charge across a membrane.
When not being activated by the nervous system, neurons maintain their membrane potential by pumping out a balance of sodium and potassium ions, both needed to instigate neurons firing.
However, when the neuron is activated with an electric signal, specific channels within the cell open up, allowing sodium ions to flood in – and as equilibrium of charge in the cell to its environment is required, potassium channels are, as a result, also opened up, causing them to flood out of the cell.
Eventually the channels close and the neurons work to restore balance between concentrations of sodium and potassium inside and outside them – but not before triggering nearby channels to open, causing a chain reaction within the muscle.
This is basically how neurons create movement within a tissue.