This Fish Sees With Its Skin

This Fish Sees With Its Skin

The many unique characteristics we see in animals enabling them to survive give evidence of God’s design and planning. Romans 1:20 says, “We can know there is a God through the things He has made.” Our daily posts here and on Facebook, as well as our Dandy Designs book series, show hundreds of examples. A new example is the hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus) living in the Atlantic Ocean reefs from the Carolinas to Brazil. You can almost say this fish sees with its skin.

Like many animals, the hogfish’s primary method of survival is camouflage. They hide by changing colors and altering skin patterns. Many animals, such as chameleons, squid, and cuttlefish, have chromatophores, which are pigment-bearing cells that can change color to match the environment. Hogfish also use chromatophores in their skin to change colors, but they have a layer of opsin, a light-sensing protein, under the chromatophore layer.

The hogfish moves through different kinds of background material as the reef has quite varied colors and textures with corals, sponges, and sediment. The fish can change its color to match the environment, but it can’t turn its head to see what color it is. The opsin layer acts as a primitive eye looking at the chromatophores to see that the color matches the surroundings. In that way, this fish sees with its skin.

The design of fish survival in a reef involves a wide variety of techniques. Some can swim rapidly, some can bury themselves in the bottom sediment, and others have immunity to stinging organisms. There are fish who can fly (glide), some can swim in schools, and some, like the Hogfish, can camouflage themselves. Together, they make the reef a place full of life and beauty. Perhaps that beauty will encourage humans to preserve the reefs of the world as places of great aesthetic worth.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Scientific American referenced in The Week for September 8/15, 2013.