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Unlikely aquatic sculptor

Freelance underwater photographer Yoji Ookata recently discovered a curious underwater pattern not unlike a crop circle:

Underwater Crop Circle

When I first saw the pictures, this seemed like a hoax on the part of Ookata (which it might still be, I guess) or the work of someone who enjoys making sand art where no one will ever see it. But Ookata convinced a camera crew to check it out and the mystery circle’s artist turns out to be a fish!

The unlikely artist โ€” best known in Japan as a delicacy, albeit a potentially poisonous one โ€” even takes small shells, cracks them, and lines the inner grooves of his sculpture as if decorating his piece. Further observation revealed that this “mysterious circle” was not just there to make the ocean floor look pretty. Attracted by the grooves and ridges, female puffer fish would find their way along the dark seabed to the male puffer fish where they would mate and lay eggs in the center of the circle. In fact, the scientists observed that the more ridges the circle contained, the more likely it was that the female would mate with the male. The little sea shells weren’t just in vain either. The observers believe that they serve as vital nutrients to the eggs as they hatch, and to the newborns.

Amazing. (via colossal)