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Daddy, don’t swallow me!

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Photo by David CookCardinal fish with eggs

Cardinal fish are small reef-dwelling fish that are found in tropical and temperate seas. (These photos are of the red-striped cardinal fish, Apogon victoriae, off the coast of Western Australia.)

They mainly feed on other small fishes and crustaceans, and are primarily nocturnal, spending most of their time during the day hiding under ledges and darker areas of the reef.

Many people refer to some species of these fish as ‘Gobbleguts’, as they have very large mouths. However this large mouth is not just used for eating! The male fish uses his mouth to protect and incubate a fertilized egg mass. He holds the eggs in his mouth for 10 days or more till they hatch. Every minute or so he will open his mouth to allow fresh water to oxygenate the eggs. When the babies hatch he will allow the tiny new generation to swim in and out of his mouth until they are ready to face the ocean on their own. So long as he holds the eggs and later the fry in his mouth, the male does not eat.

In a speculative evolutionary model of ‘red in tooth and claw’ it stretches the imagination beyond belief as to how this behaviour would develop slowly, i.e. protecting the eggs and the fry and not eating them.

It seems just another amazing example of the creativity of an infinite God.