Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seadevil Mating

This is one of the most interesting things I have read recently. It is not very Australian, but I did read it in Best Australian Essays 2008.

“…consider the black seadevil. It’s a somber, grapefruit-sized globe of a fish – seemingly all fangs and gape – with a ‘fishing rod’ affixed between its eyes whose luminescent bait jerks above the trap-like mouth. Clearly, food is a priority for this creature, for it can swallow a victim nearly as large as itself. But this is only half the story, for this description pertains solely to the female: the male is a minnow-like being content to feed on specks in the sea – until, that is, he encounters his sexual partner.

The first time that a male black seadevil meets his larger mate, he bites her and never lets go. Over time, his veins and arteries grow together with hers, until he becomes a foetus-like dependent who receives from his mate’s blood all the food, oxygen and hormones he requires to exist. The cost of this utter dependence is a loss of function in all of his organs except his testicles, but even these, it seems, are stimulated to action solely at the pleasure of the engulfing female. When she has had her way with him, the male seadevil simply vanishes, having been completely absorbed and dissipated into the flesh of his paramour, leaving her free to seek another mate. Not even Dante imagined such a fate.”

“Where Wonder Awaits Us,” by Tim Flannery