Mankind has achieved some truly amazing things as we have
evolved over time and we consider ourselves to be the most intelligent, pre-eminent
species on the planet. But when reading through her book on Pacific Reef Fish
Trish came across this intro to the simple, boring Flatfish!!!! And I quote
"To acquire their flattened bodies, flatfishes
pull off one of the animal kingdoms most astonishing feats of development
biology. While adrift in their pelagic larval stage, flounders have typical
bilateral fish shaped bodies, (stay with it, don't get bored, it's
worth the time) properly aligned fins and pigmented eyes-one on each side
of the head. Weeks later, sometime before settling on the sea floor, muscles,
skin and blood vessels and bones inexorably shift into the flattened shape of
thumbnail sized benthic juveniles. During this metamorphosis, one eye migrates
across the head until next to the other, swim bladders disappear, the dorsal and
anal fins line oval bodies and a long pectoral fin extends from the centre of
their backs. The thin, pancake profile not only hides them from predators and
prey but also allows them to bury quickly in the sand, leaving only a stalked, independently
functioning, 180 degree rotating, periscope eyes exposed.
If you think that’s clever then read this.....But
without question the tropical flounders best defensive strategy is rapid
adaptive camouflage. Once settled, after moving to a new location, visual cues
from the immediate surroundings are transmitted via nerves to thousands of irregular
shaped cells in the skin, known as chromatophores, which change body patterns
within seconds to match theor environment.
How clever is that?
Trish and I have swum above these flounders and seen this
for ourselves as they swim across the seabed changing colour instantly to match
the sea floor. We thought it was good, now we know it is amazing.