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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Tiny Male Pufferfish Can Out-create You Any Day

September 25, 2012
Image Credit: Yoji Ookata and NHK

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Prepare to be amazed by life. And yes, this story is completely true.

Freelance underwater photographer Yoji Ookata had spent nearly 50 years making dives and cataloging the intricacies and mysteries of the deep, but he had never seen anything like the discovery he recently swam by. As he was diving in the Amami Ohima region, around 80 feet below sea level between Japan and Taiwan, Ookata spotted something strange and beautiful, something neither he or nor anyone else had ever seen before: An underwater crop circle of sorts.

Measuring 6 and a half feet in diameter, this circular underwater structure had been meticulously crafted with multiple ridges which extended from the delicately etched and ornate center circle. The apparent care and ornamentation which went into this creation are far too exact and precise to have been an accident. It looks, instead, as if an underwater artist had decided to use the seafloor as his canvas and created his wonderful master work with tools, time and patience. Ookata took some photos of this circle, dubbed it the “mystery circle,” and asked an underwater camera crew at NHK to help him investigate his discovery even further.

Then, in a shocking discovery, the artist of these circles made himself visible as Ookata and the camera crews were shooting footage for a television episode about the underwater art, called “The Discovery of a Century: Deep Sea Mystery Circle.”

The artist responsible for this masterpiece? A single, tiny male pufferfish.

The entire story is explained in English here, complete with multiple pictures.

As the camera crew was documenting this circle, the male pufferfish came back to his creation, showing off his techniques. Using only his tail fin, the puffer fish likely put in many tireless hours building the mounds, carving the ridges and drawing the patterns in the sand in the center circle. The camera team even witnessed the fish cracking small shells and lining the inner circles with these pieces, presumably decorating his work.

As it is in many aspects of life, this male pufferfish may have gone through so much effort to create this beautiful piece of sea art for one reason and one reason alone: To attract a mate. Upon investigation, scientists found that female pufferfish were attracted to this piece of art, meeting the male fish in the center of his brilliantly made sea bed. These scientists also say these female pufferfish are more attracted by the number of rings found within the circles. Take from this fact what you will.

Once the female puffer has shown her approval in the male´s work, the two will mate in the middle of his ornately made bed, and the female will lay her eggs there. And those seashells the male puffer used to decorate his artwork? The scientists believe these shells can provide vital nutrients to the eggs as they hatch as well as the newly hatched puffers.

In investigating the underwater marvel topside in the lab, researchers theorized that the ridges may also serve as buffers, neutralizing the sea current to protect the newly laid eggs from being tossed into the open waters.

According to Jerry Coyne in his “Why Evolution Is Real” blog, the pufferfish is similar to the Bowerbird in the way they attract mates.

“What we have here, then, is the underwater equivalent of the bowers built by Australian bowerbirds: elaborate structures to attract females,” writes Coyne. The male puffers might be better mates than their Bowerbird counterparts, however.

“One difference between the pufferfish´s structure and bowers is that the latter are built by birds solely to attract females, and are places where matings occur. Eggs are not laid in the bowers, but elsewhere in regular nests. The deadbeat male absconds for good after mating.”

In addition to being master craftsmen and great mates, puffers are also considered a delicacy in Japan.


Source: Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online