For decades scientists have debated whether false eyespots, or dark circular marks on less vulnerable regions of the bodies of prey animals, played an important role in protecting them from predators — or were simply a fortuitous evolutionary accident.
The CoECRS team has found the first clear evidence that fish can change the size of both the misleading spot and their real eye to maximise their chances of survival when under threat.
“It’s an amazing feat of cunning for a tiny fish,” Ms Lonnstedt says. “Young damsel fish are pale yellow in colour and have this distinctive black circular ‘eye’ marking towards their tail, which fades as they mature. We figured it must serve an important purpose when they are young.”
“We found that when young damsel fish were placed in a specially built tank where they could see and smell predatory fish without being attacked, they automatically began to grow a bigger eye spot, and their real eye became relatively smaller, compared with damsels exposed only to herbivorous fish, or isolated ones.
“We believe this is the first study to document predator-induced changes in the size of eyes and eye-spots in prey animals.”
File under: The whole linked array of changes was coded in advance by a completely random process that improved survival chances.
File with: Our entire universe shows no evidence of design. If it weren’t exactly the way it is, we just wouldn’t be here to see it, that’s all. OR There are countless flopped universes out there and this one just happens to work.
Hat tip: Phillip Cunningham