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More than 70 percent of Earth is covered in water, and the oceans remain some of the most mysterious parts of our world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 95 percent of what lies underwater has not ever been seen by humans. NASA confirms that humans have better maps of the surface of Mars than of the bottom of the sea.
Earlier this year, off the southern coast of Japan, Yoji Ookata, a deep-sea photographer and diver who has been documenting the deep sea for more than 50 years, saw something he had never observed before. A circular pattern of rippling sand about 80 feet below sea level and 6 feet in diameter was on the ocean floor. Ookata returned to the same spot with a TV camera crew in tow to capture the discovery and figure out who or what had created its intricate design.
Ookata dubbed his new find the "mystery circle" and was shocked to find out that a single puffer fish, no more than a few inches long, had created the circles using just one fin. The tiny fish works tirelessly day and night to complete the design. While the circled sculpture is beautiful to look at, Ookata and his crew learned that the fish's creation maintained a dual purpose. Female fish are attracted to the ridges and valleys left in the sand, and they deposit their eggs in the center. The eggs are then shielded from the ocean currents, as the higher points of the sculpture create a barrier to protect them. The more ridges a sculpture contains, the more likely it will attract the females of the species.
This discovery really just scratches the surface of knowledge about the ocean. The rest of the 95 percent still awaits exploration.
- Nature & Environment