Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A New Angle On Sex For Creationists

Male Angler Fish
The extent to which some males will go for sex is amazing, and this has nothing at all to do with dangly things - only females have these and they use them for fishing.

No, I'm not talking about people but about fish. To be precise, the angler fish, the female of which is an ugly looking thing by any stretch of the imagination and yet strangely beautiful. She spends most of her time fishing but at least she takes her mate along with her.

She fishes by dangling a fleshy lure in front of her huge mouth, and gulping down any fish who mistake it for a meal, showing the fine line that many species tread between getting lunch and becoming lunch.

Whenever she fancies a little bit of activity of the reproductive kind, she has a unique way of turning her mate (or mates, because she's not averse to a little group activity) on. She uses her own hormones. The puny little males consist only of the barest essentials - a pair of gonads attached to the female's side which are regulated by HER hormones.

Now, this may be close to the ideal for some extreme feminists, though the thought of carrying your mate around and catering for their every need, few though those are, may not appeal.

But let's spare a little thought to the male, to whom no sacrifice for his art seems to be too great. When hatched, he can barely feed himself, if at all, but he can swim, has a powerful sense of smell with which he detects the merest whiff of a nearby female, and teeth. If there is no female close enough, he dies as he is incapable of fending for himself.

Using this sense of smell, he locates a female and bites her skin, then secretes an enzyme which dissolves the skin of his own lips so they fuse with the female's body. Their circulations then merge so he gets all his nourishment from her. Needing no digestive system, this atrophies and is absorbed by the female, followed by his heart, brain and then the rest of his body, leaving just his gonads attached to her surface. This is one of the most extreme cases of sexual dimorphism known.

Each female may have several sets of gonads from several males ready for when she needs them. When she feels in the mood, and ready to spawn, she produces a hormone which causes 'her' gonads to produce sperm at the moment she lays her eggs. She never has any need to find a mate. It's like being hermaphrodite, yet has all the advantages of sexual reproduction.

Neat, eh?

Now, a question for creationists. (No, don't run away! It should be easy if your preferred notion is correct and you really believe in it!)

Why would an intelligent designer design this bizarre system for producing more angler fish? Why have males, and this complicated process of partial parasitism, when it could have just created a female with gonads and achieved the same thing?

For an evolutionists of course, there is no problem to be explained here. Self-evidently the mechanism suited the angler fish genes because it produced more angler fish genes. So, with no regard for the individual males, this is what evolution led to. A not very efficient and coldly uncaring, yet highly effective method for producing copies of angler fish genes, just as we would expect.

No mystery, no magic, the most parsimonious answer, and yet another win for the Theory of Evolution.

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