Electrogenic Fish

Electrogenic Fish
To keep a balance among living things in the natural world, there have to be many ways for animals to get food. In lakes, oceans, and rivers this is especially difficult because of the amount of cover that exists in which small fish can hide. If small fish over-populate, they exceed their food supply and the whole ecosystem collapses. One way to keep balance is with a predator that is an electrogenic fish.

One of the agents designed into the ecological system is the existence of living things that send out electrical charges. Very little is understood about how this works, but new data is enabling us to understand how cleverly electrogenic fish are designed to enable them to find and eat forage fish.

The January/February 2018 issue of Popular Science (page 75) has an interesting article by Ken Catania, a professor of neurobiology at Vanderbilt University on his studies of electric eels. What he found is that when an electric eel discharges a high-voltage pulse, the nerve fibers in nearby animals are affected. If a small fish is swimming near the eel, it becomes frozen like a statue long enough for the eel to catch it. Even more interesting is the fact that the eel can make any creature that is nearby twitch when the eel fires off a blip of current. The eel can swim up to a clump of seaweed and fire off a pulse. Anything hiding in the seaweed, like a small fish, will reveal its presence by twitching.

Electrogenic fish are just one of many different systems in the ocean that allow predators to keep a balance in the sea. Everywhere we look in the creation we see the wisdom of God revealed “through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Cormorants Find Fish in Muddy Waters

Cormorants Find Fish in Muddy Waters
Several years ago a flock of cormorants arrived on the St. Joseph River near our home. The river was close to flood stage. The water was so muddy that you couldn’t see the bottom even if the water had been only an inch deep. Those birds demonstrated that cormorants find fish in muddy waters.

The birds landed in a large tree on an island in the middle of the river. Very soon after they landed, one took off and dove into the river. A minute or so later it came to the surface with a fish in its beak. For the rest of the day, we saw these fishing birds dive and catch fish, sometimes staying under water for a very long time. I wondered how they could do that because sight in the water was non-existent.

In the October/November 2017, issue of National Wildlife (page 8), there is an article explaining how cormorants and other fish-eating birds manage when the water is so loaded with mud that they can’t see. Scientists at the University of Southern Denmark have studied the hearing of the great cormorant. They discovered that this seabird has a specialized sense of hearing tuned to a very narrow frequency range. The frequency is the same as the sound produced by herring and sculpin fish as they swim in the water. Those fish are the primary prey of the cormorant and sculpin live on the bottom of water bodies where it is dark, and the water is often dirty.

There are over 800 species of birds that find their food underwater. Since these cormorants find fish in muddy waters, the scientists on this project predict that other aquatic birds also use specialized hearing to catch fish. We see this as another design that God gave these creatures for survival.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Few Can Fish

Few Can Fish
FEW CAN FISH? We saw the following article on the editorial page of the Phoenix Republic in December of 1991. We don’t know who wrote it, but we thought it was worth sharing with you.

Anyone Can Talk: Few Can Fish

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves. Fishermen.

And, lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish, and the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year, those who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to go fishing.

Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. They sponsored costly nationwide and worldwide congresses to discuss fishing and hear
about all the ways of fishing, such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls and whether any new bait was discovered.

But the teachers did not fish; they only taught fishing. Some spent much time in study and travel to learn the history of fishing and to see faraway places where the Founding Fathers did great fishing in centuries past. They lauded the faithful fishermen of years earlier who handed down the idea of fishing.

Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. And they went off to foreign lands … to teach fishing.

Now it’s true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made
fun of their fishermen clubs. They anguished over those who were not committed enough to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing.

These fishermen built large and beautiful buildings called Fishing Headquarters. The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish.

One thing they didn’t do, however: they didn’t fish. All of the fishermen seemed to agree that what was needed was a board that could challenge fishermen to be faithful in fishing.

The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in faraway streams and lakes where many other fish of different colors lived. Large, elaborate and expensive training centers were built whose purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology.

After all, were they not following the one who said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”?

Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet, it did sound correct.

Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish? Is one following if he isn’t fishing? If Christ were to return to this Earth today in physical form, would He find us fishing, or would he find us organizing, talking about fishing, and making plans to build the best Fishing Headquarters anywhere? – Anonymous

Is it true that few can fish? It’s up to you to decide.

Symbols

Emojis
Emojis
Humans seem to enjoy using symbols for everything in life. Notice the emoticons and emojis used in electronic communication. It is interesting that the use of symbols to convey meaning is an attribute of humans that is not seen in any other form of life. Animals may use sounds or chemicals to alert others of their kind to danger, territory, or sexual availability, but these are not symbols. Sometimes symbols have different meanings to different cultures or even different generations. In my hippie days, holding up two fingers in a “V” meant “peace.” When I was first inducted into military service, the same symbol meant “victory” and indicated an intention to conquer. Symbols convey information, and as the deaf can demonstrate to us, they can even form the basis of complex communication.

Our use of symbols is a reflection of our spiritual makeup. We can create art, express ourselves in music, and worship God because we possess a soul which allows these unique forms of expression. The most mentally challenged among us can use symbols and rejoice in being able to do so.

Sometimes symbols and their use are unique to a particular time in human history. A classic example of this is the use of the cross. In today’s world, the cross is universally accepted as a symbol of Christianity. People wear crosses to express their personal faith. The cross is put on many buildings, Bibles, and along our roadsides. Steven Lemley in an article in Power for Today (January 2, 2017) points out that in the first century the cross was only a sign of the execution of guilty criminals. He reminds us that wearing a cross or having it adorn a place of worship in the first century, would be like us today wearing the image of a hypodermic needle used in executions. Many saw the cross as a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23) or a sign of God’s weakness. Paul used the cross as a symbol of separating ourselves from the world (Galatians 6:14) as well as crucifying our sinful nature (Romans 6:6).

For the first century Christians, the outline of a fish was used as a symbol. The Greek word “fish” spelled out an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” Archaeological discoveries of ancient Christian symbols display the fish and sometimes a young man holding a lamb. Today we see people with fish symbols on their cars. We also see the cross used as a symbol to remind us of the terrible suffering that Jesus endured, and the ultimate victory of Christ over sin. All symbols, even emojis, can remind us that we have an eternal spiritual nature that we can express in many ways. The use of symbols, worship, and prayer are uniquely human features reminding us that we were created in the image of God.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Darwin Day and Darwin Weekend (Part 3)

A Variety of Bird Species
A Variety of Bird Species
We have been thinking about the upcoming Darwin Day on February 12, and Darwin Weekend February 10-12. We have considered the wonderful way in which life was designed to change and adapt–that is, to evolve. Let’s consider what this means to biblical faith.

When the Bible talks about different kinds of living things, it does not indicate a fixity of species. Consistently the Bible refers to large groupings of animals as “kinds.” Genesis 1:20-26, Genesis 6:20, Genesis 7:3 and 14, 1 Corinthians 15:39, and James 3:7 all share similar groupings. I am told that there are 126 different varieties of chickens in the world, but the Bible doesn’t describe each of them. In fact, all fowl seem to have a common origin. Fish are described as an independent kind, but new species have been cultivated by humans, and the number of fish in the waters of the world is huge. The Bible also agrees that living things can change. Jacob’s management of Laban’s flocks is a clear use of what Darwin later described. The fact that all races of humans in the world today can be genetically traced to a single female ancestor is an indication that even humans can change.

We don’t find unity between science and faith by compromising what the Bible says or by embracing bad science. Since the Bible and creation have the same Author/Creator, they cannot conflict. If there is a conflict, there is either bad science, bad theology, or both. We have had a lot of both. Tomorrow we will talk about what that means and give some examples.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Evolution in Action: The Incredible Goldfish

Bubble Eye Goldfish
Bubble Eye Goldfish
In Ocean Park in Hong Kong there is a “Goldfish House” which features some 300 different varieties of fish that appear to be creatures from another world. The Red Bubble Eye for example has two cheeks that bulge out like huge balloons with a yellow color bridging off from an orange body. The tricolor Dorsal-Finned Bubble Eye looks similar, but it has a large dorsal fin and its body is black and white and it has a long flowing black and white tail. The tricolor Ranchu has a face like a bulldog and a multicolored body and the Black Dragon Eye has two huge eyes that protrude from the body and large, delicate fins. All of these fish that look so different from one another descended from the Prussian carp, also known as Gibel carp, which were raised by Chinese Buddhists in the Tang Dynasty. By the tenth century these fish which we call “goldfish” were prized as pets.

The Japanese took many of these very different kinds of goldfish back to Japan where raising unusual looking fish became a hobby of many people. By 1850 breeding clubs were formed in the United States and in Great Britain, there is a Goldfish Society with a large number of members. Goldfish have two sets of chromosomes from each parent, which means that mutations are preserved and expressed in many ways. Over 300 varieties exist at the present time.

Our local breeder of goldfish calls this “evolution at its best.” There are practical uses for this hobby. Most of these fish are small–four to ten inches–but there are varieties that grow to 25 pounds. I can remember crappie fishing in the 1960’s with goldfish minnows, which were raised by a fish farm in Martinsville, Indiana. They were effective as bait because of their visibility, but the rapid growth of these fish makes them ideal as a food source in some areas of the world.

Evolution is not a synonym for “man from monkey.” Evolution is a tool for producing new varieties of life which can benefit us in many ways. In the case of the goldfish there is aesthetic value in these changes, but also economic and nutritional value. When young people study biology in high school, they learn about how these genetic processes work and why. The design of the genetic materials that allow all of this is incredibly complex. In the Bible, Jacob used evolutionary change. The flocks of Laban were modified in a beneficial way by Jacob using these same principles. (See Genesis 30.)

All of the goldfish in the world are from the one species. It takes a creative imagination to visualize how some of these strange looking varieties of fish can form, but the changes do not involve adding organs or making massive changes in biological digestive processes.

God is the author of this process, and trying to understand how all of this was designed and how it came to be applied to all the life forms that exist on the earth today is an enthralling field of study for young biology students. Everywhere we look in the natural world we find that a wonder-working hand has gone before. Changes like those shown in the goldfish speak eloquently about how beautiful and creative the genetic design of life can be.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Frillfin Goby–A Fish with a Built-in GPS

Frillfin goby
One of the most studied fish in the ocean is a three-inch long shore fish called the frillfin goby (Bathygobius soporator). This little fish has even gotten attention from the New York Times which ran an article about studies by Dr. Jonathan Balcombe on this fish and how it survives (May 15, 2016).

This fish lives in the intertidal zones in the Atlantic Ocean. When the tide goes out, the fish lives in small tidal pools which are isolated and free of the large predatory fish which pose a threat when the tide is in. The problem is that these small pools can be hunting grounds for shorebirds and crabs so sometimes the fish needs to change pools. The goby does this by jumping out of its pool and landing in a nearby pool that offers better protection. The obvious problem with making this jump is knowing where the next pool is to land in it and not on bare rock. In 1971 a study was done at the American Museum of Natural History to see how the frillfin goby learns where to jump and how far to jump to land in the pool. Their conclusion was that the goby swims over the area at high tide and makes a mental map of the topography of the sea floor. It can use this mental map 40 days later to escape from a predator. Essentially they have a mental GPS that allows them to make what would otherwise be a very dangerous escape.

This is not a chance driven device. Observers did not see any case where the goby missed its pool. The accuracy of the jumping is far beyond chance. This instinctive drive and the biological features that sustain it are an evidence of an intelligence providing for life in every nook and cranny of the world around us. For more information see the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 188 (1) : 378-392.
–John N. Clayton © 2017