Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Underwater Wonders


Long time, no see! But here are some fascinating sea discoveries to kind of make up for some months without blog updates.


First are the mysterious circles discovered by Japanese diver Yoji Ootaka in 2007. In Japan, crop circles are more commonly known as “mystery circles”, and these were genuinely mysterious ones! Made in regular patterns on soft sand, they would not last for very long, and for years Ootaka recorded them and asked in his blog if anyone else had seen them, and who or what could be behind them? Turns out nobody had seen those circles before, but the mystery would not last very long.

This year a team of marine scientists with the public TV station NHK program “Darwin has come!” found and recorded the culprit in gorgeous images. And the artist was a little blowfish!


Working hard for up to six days to create these symmetrical constructions almost a couple of meters in diameter! What for? Well, as Jerry Coyne put it, “if you’re an evolutionary biologist, you might have guessed: sexual selection. A male sculpts this thing to attract females for mating”. In experiments the Japanese scientists determined the more grooves the pattern has, the greater the chance to attracts females. Because at the center of the pattern, there is the artist!

In the first posts about his discovery, Ootaka did mention he found small puffer fishes inside the circles, but they had to record the little fish actually creating the huge pattern to believe it. The pattern is not only aesthetic: the grooves and ridges help neutralize sea floor currents, further protecting the eggs.


Crop circles are still made by humans, but mating hedgehogs may not sound so absurd after all.


Sponge Reception

At ten thousand feet below the ocean’s surface, scientists discovered yet another amazing creature: the harp sponge (Chondrocladia lyra).

“C. lyra is called the harp sponge because its basic structure, called a vane, is shaped like a harp or lyre. Each vane consists of a horizontal branch supporting several parallel, vertical branches. But don’t let the harp sponge’s whimsical appearance and innocent sounding name fool you, it’s actually a deep-sea predator.

Clinging with root-like "rhizoids" to the soft, muddy sediment, the harp sponge captures tiny animals that are swept into its branches by deep-sea currents. Typically, sponges feed by straining bacteria and bits of organic material from the seawater they filter through their bodies. However, carnivorous harp sponges snare their prey—tiny crustaceans—with barbed hooks that cover the sponge’s branching limbs. Once the harp sponge has its prey in its clutches, it envelops the animal in a thin membrane, and then slowly begins to digest it.”

The regularity of the sponge, which makes it look almost artificial, may have Forteans remembering the case of the “Eltanin Antenna”, a famous photo captured in 1964 of what looked like a man (or perhaps alien) made artifact at almost four kilometer deep at sea. In 2003 Tom DeMary did the basic research that no UFO buff had done until then and contacting the original researchers found out they had already identified the image as that of another carnivorous sponge, C. concrescens.


Moving Lilies

And last, here’s one which I first thought was the creation of some horror movie, but as you may guess, is actually a very real and yet completely natural creature. Here is Neocrinus decorus:

It’s a crinoid, a sea lily usually attached at the bottom of the sea by its long stalk, and yet in the video we can see that when needed it can move, and actually quite fast. Scientists didn’t think it could move that fast – though, before you start running to the hills, one must remember the distance between the right-most and left-most red laser dots is only 2 cm. That is, this is a pretty small harmless sea lily.

Creepy as hell, granted, I much prefer the puffer fish, but they are all amazing discoveries which fortunately have not been mystified with cheap fantasies. With the exception of that sponge antenna of 1964, of course.

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  1. Friday Fancy / Beep Boop Internets « Hacklock November 16th, 2012 9:36 pm

    […] Underwater wonders […]

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