Two thousand feet below the ocean’s surface lives a fish with strange looking eyes. It is known as the barreleye (Macropinna microstoma). If you saw it you would wonder how it could eat. The problem is that its eyes are on the very top of its head and its mouth is in the normal place for a fish — facing forward and on the bottom part of its face. So how can the fish see what is in front of its face?

It is easy to understand that a fish living deep in the ocean, is going to have most of its food, such as krill, falling down from the shallower depths. The eyes of the barreleye are facing up and are covered with a fluid-filled, transparent dome which protects them from jellyfish. It will sometimes eat fish that have gotten tangled in the jellyfish tentacles. For easier seeing, the eyes also have green lenses which filter out down-coming light.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California has solved the mystery of how these fish can see what is in front of them. The eyes actually rotate. The fish normally will have its eyes in the “up” position which it uses to watch for prey coming from above. The fish can then use muscles to pop its eyes forward so it can aim at its target and eat its food. The structure of the skull and the muscle placement allows this unusual adaptation so the barreleye is ideally suited to eat the food available at the depth where this fish lives.

There are many designs for sight in the animal world. The kind of food desired, the conditions under which the animal lives, and the anatomical structure of the animal all play a role in allowing the animal to survive. These intricate designs demand sophisticated engineering principles. We can clearly see God’s wisdom and design in the barreleye.


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