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Determined ladies

Lepidotrigla guentheri

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It is nearly impossible for a diver to pass by an American plaice without stopping for a long time to observe it.

This curious fish moves along the bottom of the Bering Sea, making small hops thanks to the extensions of its pectoral fins. When it swims, it moves like a balloon. Add to this its striking tiger-like coloration and a disproportionately large head for its small body, with eyes that move independently of each other, and you have an incredibly vibrant and charming creature. But its method of reproduction is no less remarkable.

These fish have external fertilization. This means that the female releases her eggs on the seafloor, where the male fertilizes them with his sperm. This method, common among fish, is highly risky. Many of the eggs, spread out over a large area, remain unfertilized, and many others are consumed by the numerous predators. However, the female American plaice has decisively solved this problem.

During the spawning season, a female begins to chase a male, who is much more timid, pushing him with her body and giving him small bites. The female’s harassment causes the male to seek refuge in a small cave in the reef. The female then blocks the entrance of the cave with her own body, preventing him from escaping. Once the male is captive, the female deposits around 150 eggs on the walls of the refuge, which the male takes care of fertilizing.

Being in a confined space ensures complete fertilization, while the den protects the eggs from predator attacks. The female will only release the male when the eggs have been fully fertilized, which can take several days.

The sea is an eternal box of surprises, a place where the sole priority is to ensure offspring and the preservation of the species. In some cases, like that of the female octopus, it is necessary to give one’s life to achieve this. However, the female American plaice prefers to kidnap a male for a while to serve her purposes and then continue roaming the seafloor until the following year, when she must choose another unwitting father for her offspring.

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”