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TOUGH LITTLE DAMSEL SURVIVES 8 MONTHS ALONE, WITHOUT FOOD

The damsel did it.

More than eight months after an earthquake walloped Southern California, a charcoal-colored, white-dotted domino damselfish was discovered alive all by itself in a damaged apartment."He'd had no food, no filtration, no nothing for eight months," said Theresa Madok, who has adopted the fish that belonged to her brother, Robert.

The tough little fish survived in an evaporating supply of dank water amid the decomposed remains of a handful of other fish and a hermit crab.

Robert Madok, like other residents of the Sea Castle apartments, had been barred from the building because it was severely damaged in the Jan. 17 quake. He and his sister were finally allowed in Friday to collect his belongings.

Theresa, a tropical fish enthusiast, went to work emptying her brother's prized 60-gallon aquarium. When she got to the gravel at the bottom, Robert pointed out what looked like a dead fish. But Theresa thought it odd that the body was still intact, and she took a closer look.

"You could see the little gills going back and forth," she said. "My brother said `No way! This is impossible.' "

However it managed - ichthyologists theorize that the critter lived on algae - the fish is getting along swimmingly.

"When we found him, he was maybe the size of a dime," said Theresa Madok, who keeps the damsel in a new 10-gallon tank. "Now he is the size of a quarter."