Friday, November 05, 2004

Elton John and those kinky fishes...

Elton John is set to marry a 'man' soon. Meanwhile, a Malaysian court rejects a woman’s application to change her official sex to a man. In Japan, the law was recently amended to officially allow changes in sex if certain conditions are met.

In the aquatic realm, the issue of sex change and recognition is a non-issue. For these creatures along with some snails and worms, it is a matter of survival and reproduction. While freshwater fishes rarely do so, marine fishes exhibit four different patterns in the business of sex change.

The first pattern is most common. Most coral fishes start life as females, and change their sex to males depending on the ratio of males to females in their colony. Examples of such fishes include wrasses and parrotfish. When the male dies, the largest female will transform herself into the dominant male.

Clownfishes display the second type of sex change. They start off as sexless creatures. The female is supreme in the world of clownfishes, with the male being her right hand man. If the female dies, the male changes his sex into female and takes the lead. The largest among the sexless juveniles will become the male.

The third way is exemplified by some gobies the size of human fingers. They change to the opposite sex and re-change back to the original depending on the proportion of males and females in the community.

The fourth manner is illustrated by dwarf sea basses, which function as males and females at the same time. They sometimes become long term monogamous couples, taking turns to lay their own eggs, and fertilize their partner’s eggs alternatively.

Finally, while not having anything to do with changing sex, nature has decided that the male seahorse, not the female, gets the privilege to become pregnant.

Hmmm... now, which pattern is our good old friend Elton looking at...