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Japan's mysterious underwater crop circles, explained


Dalia Ibrahim
Digital Reporter

Sunday, August 18, 2013, 8:52 PM - Behold, what you're seeing is not a scene from the latest summer Sci-Fi blockbuster.

Dubbed 'mystery circles' by divers, these seven-foot diameter patterned circles have been an enigma off the coast of southern Japan since 1995. 

That mystery continued until 2011 when the culprit was finally caught in the act -- and If you're thinking alien or human hoax, you couldn't be further from the truth -- it was none other than a male pufferfish in search of love. 

Scientists recently studied the process of how the species creates these beautiful, symmetrical designs 80 feet below sea level. They discovered that they created the crop circles in an effort to woo females.

All images courtesy of underwater photographer Yoji Ookata

All images courtesy of underwater photographer Yoji Ookata

The team looked at a total of 10 construction events carried out by 4 to 8 males. They noted that the males spent seven to nine days 'building' their respective pattern by repeatedly weaving in and out of the circle, using their fins as shovels to dig valleys in the sandy ocean floor. 

Aside from being visually stunning, the aesthetics of the circle serve a great purpose. 

"The circular structure (the pattern located in the centre of the crop circle) not only influences female mating choices but also functions to gather fine sand particles in nests, which are very important." said researchers in their official report on Nature.com. 

This part of the circle is where the male pufferfish entertained lady callers. Whenever a female would approach the circle, the male kicked up the sand in the middle and swam back and forth through it. If then the female deemed him suitable, she would lay her eggs in the central zone. 

"Strangely enough, the males never reuse the nest, always constructing a new circular structure at the huge cost of construction. This is because the valleys may not contain sufficient fine sand particles for multiple reproductive cycles," concluded the report.

Click here to read the paper published on Nature.com last month. 

Okata co-authored the paper published on Nature.com last month

Okata co-authored the paper published on Nature.com last month

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