This past September Japanese underwater photographer Yoji Ookata stumbled across an interesting circular structure dug in the sand 80 feet down on the ocean floor off the coast of southern Japan. The geometric circular structure was about six and half feet in diameter and had grooves extending from a sunken inner circle. Ookata was stumped by what could have created this structure, so he called a team of biologists to try and figure it out. It turn out that the Japanese puffer fish created the drawing in the sand by moving sand with one of its fins. The more interesting part of the discovery is what Ookata and the biologists found about circle and why the puffer fish made it.
The team of researchers found out that the male puffer fish made the design in order to attract a mate. There is more to this than that. The more elaborate the design, the more mates the male puffer fish would attract. Scientist also observed puffer fish taking shells to break them and place them on top of the ridges to add to its design. They found that there was another function to the design of the sand structure. The female would lay her eggs in the center of the circle and in that center the design made it so that the ocean currents would not wash away the eggs. This new finding is an example of how interactions between biological systems lead to complex properties. This mating ritual of the puffer fish is so complex and unique that it has to have risen due interactions among puffer fish and the biotic and abiotic factors in its environment.
Many would call space the final frontier for which we have to explore next, but I believe that for the time being we should not forget about the final frontier here on earth; the oceans. The deep sea makes up 90% of the living space on the planet and scientists still do not know much about it. Scientists are still finding out about new animal species and behaviors in relatively shallow waters. There is so much to learn about our oceans that could potentially change the way we think about them and the species that live there. This is why I found the story about mystery “crop circles” underwater in Japan so interesting. If puffer fish can make intricate and beautiful designs in the sand solely for the purpose of mating, what else can other species do? I belief we are just at the doorway of what the ocean has hidden in its depths.