There are a number of fish that pose major problems for evolution. Among them is a group of fish known as anglerfish.
Anglerfish are not your typical pretty or brightly colored saltwater aquarium attraction. In fact, they are generally, but not always, dark, drab and grotesquely ugly with huge gaping mouths full of large menacing teeth. Some have been described them as a mouth and stomach surrounded by a body.
They are called anglerfish because of an appendage composed of the first three spines of the anterior dorsal fin that forms a lure on the top of their head. Some of the appendages are short and others quite long. The end of the appendage varies greatly from what looks like a cluster of worms to just an enlarged bulb. Deep sea anglerfish contain bioluminescent bacteria on the tip of their appendage that lights up in the deep dark waters luring curious prey within reach. Regardless of the size, shape or bioluminescence, they all serve the same purpose – to lure fish close enough for them to grab and swallow. Many anglerfish actually look like they are fishing just like a human angler, hence their name.
As odd and unique as their lures are, the really strange aspect of anglerfish is the relationship between the males and females.
As I have stated in several previous articles, I enjoy watching nature and science programs. This past weekend, I caught one of the episodes of the series, Blue Planet: Seas of Life. This particular episode dealt with the deep sea realms of the oceans. Although I’ve seen this program a couple of times before over the past few years, one section caught my interest. It was several minutes of discussion and video on anglerfish.
The program pointed out that only the female anglerfish are the larger fish with the lure appendage. Males are about one-tenth the size of the female. In the blackness of the deep abyss, finding a mate can be a problem at times. To overcome this problem, females give off a chemical scent that the tiny males will detect and follow to the female. When the male approaches, he will gently bite at the female to let her know he is there. Then he takes a big deep bite into the female, sinking his teeth as far into her flesh as he can. Over the next several weeks, the male’s mouth fuses into the female’s flesh making them inseparable. The male spends the rest of his life as a parasite attached to the female, living off of her blood supply. In turn, the female has a ready supply of sperm to fertilize her eggs whenever she lays them. Some females have been found to have two or three male parasites attached to them.
How did this behavior evolve? How did the process of the male fusing to the female evolve? Did males once have a lure but lost them due their parasitic relationship with the females? Were the males closer to the size of the females and only became smaller because of their evolved parasitic lifestyle?
There are a number of questions that really defy evolutionary explanation. When you look at everything involved with the size and character of the female and male anglerfish, the only reasonable explanation is that they were designed this way from the very beginning. The male is perfectly sized and suited for his life as a parasitic sperm bank and the female is perfectly designed for her role of luring and catching enough prey to provide nourishment for her and her parasitic courtesans.
To borrow a phrase from a former colleague, the anglerfish seems designed to do what it does do and what it does do it does do well, doesn’t it.
This presentation was given live to some 2000 people, many of them students, at South Africas renowned university town of Stellenbosch. Afterwards, 30 university students came forward to publically profess faith in Christ. Its clear that in this age of science and technology, we need to deal with the evolution issue head-on, from an unashamedly biblical standpoint. (Illustrated presentation, including English subtitles)
Featuring: Dr Carl Wieland
Length: 57 min