What we thought about...



6th June, 2005

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A scaly iconoclast?

People in the early middle ages didn't smile benignly upon those who refused to venerate holy images; such mavericks were known as iconoclasts. The term has expanded to cover anybody who speaks or acts against cherished ideas or deeply-ingrained traditions. Some researchers are beginning to wonder if the object of their investigations — a fish known as the Convict Blenny or Engineer Goby — might not serve as a model iconoclast. It may be guilty of breaking one of nature's universal rules — that parents take care of their offspring. Believe it or not, scientists suspect that young convicts actually feed their parents!

The whole earth is full of God's glory (Is. 6:3). Often, incredible and bizarre wonders are to be found right under our noses. Untold thousands of divers have seen convict fish in shallow lagoons or on coastal reefs in the Western Central Pacific, while millions more have kept them in aquaria. Only about 6 mm at birth, the blackish juveniles gradually develop stripes as they mature into two-foot-long (60 cm) adults. In spite of their abundance in living room tanks, their behavior in the wild has remained virtually unknown until recent work by marine biologist Eugenie Clark and photographer Stephen Kogge. Says

Clark: “These fish are so fantastic! We don't know any other that act like they do.” (Carol Kaufman, National Geographic, June 2005).

A unique feature of these fish is that the young, which spend the day roving widely gulping down plankton, return, at the end of the day, like starlings to their roost, to labyrinthine tunnels in the coral where their parents live. There they hang attached to the roof by extremely thin mucous threads. In the morning, the fry virtually explode out of their holes “like slow motion fireworks” for the day's feeding. While the young are often seen, adult fish remain holed up permanently. Upon dissection, Clark found that the stomach contents of the adults contained only an oozy green slime. This observation led to the unbelievable theory that the adults were eating the juveniles' wastes! Kaufman says, “Did the parents take offspring into their mouths to protect them from danger? Maybe the young fish regurgitate digested plankton into their parents.” If so, it's the first case of fish offspring feeding mom and dad.

The mind of God knows no constraints.

For more information on this fish, visit http://www.fishbase.org/Summary


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