There seems to be some disagreement about how life came to be on this particular orb. As I understand it the two basic schools of thought are that either everything was put together by a designer with intelligence, or that random changes over very long periods of time brought forth more adapted and better constructed planetary inhabitants.
It was with this conundrum in mind, while looking at the latest images from Roatan's Blackwater photo aficionados Courtney, Manon, and Mickey that I happened upon a shot by Mickey of a larval flounder. Further reflection (it's a tropical island, and anyone who doesn't live here can tell you it's one of the things I should be doing) got me to thinking that if ever there was one to have a chip on its shoulder, and deserve an explanation from the Grand Architect about its over-all lot in life, the flounder would be a shoe-in to win that contest. Others may profess that it is merely the result of the evolutionary crap-shoot, but the chip remains.
Seen here in this stunning image, at this stage of the flounder's life it has to be about as good as it's gonna get. Newly hatched into life, the product of a dubious hook-up at best (more on this sultry liaison later, perhaps not for the kids), and one of literally thousands of siblings, the flounder's existence begins in the world wide spaces of the pelagic water column. Frolicking in the ocean's open abysses, and flitting about eating suspended morsels, with its one true hope in life being; to grow, and not be the one eaten.
Should this bottom link in the food chain happen to beat overwhelming odds, and be borne by the wind and tides to shallow water without ending up in the digestive tract of any predator over the size of your garden variety lima bean, life will begin to take on a new meaning.
The goal of life it is said is to produce new life, and to get to that point one must endure the rite of passage called puberty, and flounders (the fortunate ones) are no exception.
There is no getting around it; puberty is tough no matter what you are. For us humans there are the minor inconveniences of hair growing in strange places, rampant awkwardness, and the unrelenting urge to “go there and DO that”, without really knowing where ‘that’ is, or even really what ‘that’ may be. Yet, I’d have to say that humans have it pretty easy in this department.
It is hard to imagine the ordeal the poor flounder must go through to reach sexual maturity. During its metamorphosis this innocent creature goes from swimming normally in the water column with both eyes forward, and fins along its top and bottom edges (certainly fish-like enough to not stand out like a sore fin at school), and turns into a bizarre and almost unrecognizable creature.
Slowly, and no doubt painfully, one of its eyes migrates across its skull to become permanently imbedded next to what used to be the "left" eye! No doubt in an effort to mask the design flaw of ending up with a fish that swims perpetually in left-hand circles, and to reduce a potential overpopulation of NASCAR drivers, the Grand Architect (or random mutation) chose to make his/its poor victim's side, the top, and the bottom becomes a side, and etc. With its eyes now located on the "top" of its newly oriented body the flounder's only view is up, and to protect its new blind-side (bottom) it takes up permanent residence in the white sands near the coral reefs.
A survivor, mature, and in its permanent residence, it is time for the flounder to take part in the ultimate experience of existence on this planet; procreation. Even at this apex of the life experience Mother Nature totally disregards any intimacy or pleasure that could be had by the coming together of two of the same species to put forth the future generation. Being optically unique and challenged, the couple in question somehow manage to locate each other, and without so much as a friendly "reach-around" (after all, what is "around" now?) get tummy to tummy, and do "the deed" while facing in the opposite direction, away from each other. In no way genetically predisposed to becoming “Parents of the Year”, and really having only met in a collision sense, thousands of their progeny are dispersed into the food chain to perpetuate the darker side of the circle of life, should they survive.
On top of all this it is also the flounder's good fortune to be quite tasty as in Baked Flounder, Sauteed Flounder, Stuffed, and Grilled Flounder.
As it happens, just when I thought the bottom of the evolutionary bucket had been reached (or the limits of the creator's attention span), I am told of a fish that may be a bit more deserving of our sympathies; the Pearlfish.
Like the disadvantaged Flounder, the Pearlfish begins life dispersed in the foodchain of the pelagic water column. Should it be fortunate enough to reach maturity as small tadpole shaped fish, its permanent residence is obtained by backing up the anus of the Sea Cucumber.
Aw shucks, that Flounder ain't got it so bad!