Watch the Bizarre Mating Habits of Puffer Fish in New PBS Documentary

first_img Alligators Spotted ‘Swimming’ in Road, Climbing Fences in FloridaBaby Dugong That Became Internet Star Dies After Ingesting Plastic I can honestly say I’ve never really given much thought to how fish have sex, but clearly some folks do. An upcoming nature documentary series on PBS, Big Pacific, shows that puffer fish have some the most elaborate and taxing mating rituals around.First, male puffies (that’s what I’m calling them now), make complex patterns in the sand. It’s essentially the marital-bed-to-be, but it’s also got some weird properties. While these things take over a week to make, afterward they create a zone of reduced ocean current. The show explains that the sand circles “reduce the apparent current by almost 25 percent.”These patterns were first discovered in 1995 near Japan. Like sand mandalas, these apparent works of art are transient, and that had the marine biology community stumped for more than a decade. But a couple years back, researchers were reviewing footage and discovered a totally new species: the white-spotted puffer. They also saw the whole, laborious process of making the bed. Because the fish have no hands, they can only stir up currents with their fins and direct the sediment to where it needs to go. That’s partially where the elaborate design comes from — it can funnel finer grains of sand towards the center, and when you’re a puffer fish trying to make an attractive egg-laying spot, you want only the finest, smoothest sand you can get.Regardless, the whole process is made more ridiculous by the fact that the male can’t stop at all. If he does, the art could be damaged or blurred by the current.Once done, he’ll gather up sand dollars and seashells to adorn his masterpiece. If a wandering female happens to approve, she’ll settle in the center and hover for a bit. Then he sweeps in to bite her on the cheek. “Sex” lasts only a few seconds before the female deposits the eggs in the center of the sand dial and then dips — never to be seen again.As someone with a degree in evolutionary biology, I always love hearing about this kind of thing. It’s genuinely fascinating. You may wonder just how these kinds of things evolve or why evolution would, so frequently saddle males with having to perform the rituals. It’s pretty simple, really, and it’s partially a matter of evening things out.Biologically speaking, “male” and “female” really refers to what kind of reproductive cells you produce. Females, by default, produce the largest ones — eggs. Males, on the other hand, tend to have sperm. Eggs are much larger and harder to make energy-wise vs. sperm. In humans, for example, someone may have a few million eggs, and that’s all they will ever have during their lifetime. Someone else, though, could well produce hundreds of billions, if not trillions of sperm. There’s an imbalance there — eggs are intrinsically more valuable. Their scarcity means when subjected to a system that seeks to maximize efficiency like natural selection, that females would be more choosey about which dudes they fertilize their eggs. So, in the animal kingdom, you end up with dude-apes fighting for mates, or peacocks and their brilliant colors, or these wacky puffers and their awesome sand circles.If you want to see more, watch the video about. Plus, Big Pacific premieres June 21, 7 pm CST. Stay on targetlast_img read more