The unsolved mystery of the 'crop circles' - Intricately carved large designs that magically appear on farms all across the world, has been plaguing scientists for centuries. Some speculate that they are the work of farmers trying to attract tourists, whilst others believe that they are alien art. But when similar creations started to appear underwater off the coast of Southern Japan, there seemed to be no explanation - logical or otherwise!
Similar to their counterparts on dry land, the circles that were first spotted by local divers in 1995, measured an impressive seven feet in diameter and comprised of beautiful ridges 'carved' out from the sand at the bottom of the ocean floor. But who, was the artist?
That remained a mystery until September 2012, when Japanese deep-sea photographer Yoji Ookata came across one during his regular dives in the Pacific Ocean. Intrigued to find the creator, he returned to the same spot a short time later with a television crew. As luck would have it, his timing was perfect - They caught the artist in the act. Sadly enough, it was not an alien trying its skills on a different medium, but a five-inch long male, pufferfish!
Over the course of their research, the team observed not one but ten similar 'construction projects' going on simultaneously. It took each between seven to nine days of tireless swimming back and forth whilst expertly using their fins to flick sand, to create the perfect ridges and valleys.
And lest you think the male fish were competing in some kind of sand sculpture competition, you could not be further from the truth. Turns out that these small but poisonous fish do it to attract mates. And believe it or not, the females pick them based on how good their 'fin' work is - At least that's the conclusion the photographers reached after watching them scout out a number of circles, before settling for the one with the most intricate hills and valleys. In order to ensure that their mate is well-taken care of, the considerate males also dragged small rocks and seashells and placed them around the periphery - Not only did they look decorative, but also, provided nutrition.
What's even more impressive is that the sand circles are not just artistic, they are also very useful. That's because the females use them to lay their eggs carefully in the center so that they can be protected from the ocean currents by the ridges, which may also be the reason the smart fish seeks out the circles with the highest number of them!
Of course an assertion that tiny fish are responsible for these amazing sand sculptures is almost as unbelievable as stating that crop circles are the work of aliens. That is probably why Yoji Ookata and his team decided to release this video of the pufferfish working away feverishly. You truly have to see it, to believe it! Now if we could only unravel the mystery of the crop circles, life would be perfect!