Underwater Crop Circles

Are extraterrestrial beings to blame for the underwater “crop circles” seen in the photo to the right? This may have been one theory to explain what recreational divers off the coast of Japan reported seeing in the years since they were first spotted in 1995. It turns out that these elaborate structures are actually created by male puffer fish (Torquigener sp.) to both attract females and act as a spawning/nesting site. It is in these elaborate underwater structures that the male puffer fish watches over his eggs until they hatch.

Hiroshi Kawase and associates observed several male puffer fish for an average of 7-9 days using their fins to dig out valleys in the sand, stir up fine particles of sand for the center of the nest and place “ornaments”, such as sea shells and coral, all in hopes of attracting a female. After spawning, gaurding and hatching takes place within the “nest”, the structure is all but destroyed by ocean currents. The team noticed something very interesting at this point: instead of repairing the original structure, the fish moves to a new location and begins the process anew. This, they believe, is due to the disappearance of the fine particles of sand that make up the central structure which are borne away by the ocean current. Apparently, the amount of these fine particles are extremely important in attracting a female. So much so that the male must start over in a new area possessing enough fine particles of sand to increase his chances of passing on his genetics to the next generation of puffer fish.

The article written by Kawase and associates can be read in its entirety in Scientific Reports at Nature.com.

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