Mermaid's Purses
by D. Wilson, Murphy, NC

Some of the most unusual animals in the oceans are the flat fish called skates. These are grouped in the same class as sharks because they have a cartilage skeleton instead of true bones.They commonly bury themselves in the sand in the shallow parts of the ocean and can be seen as you wade in the water. Skates are unusual fish. They have wing-like pectoral fins that resemble the wings of an aircraft but are flapped much like a bird. The eyes are situated dorsally and immediately in front of the spiracles (breathing vents). Their teeth are molar-like, arranged in rows, and can be either blunt or sharp. These are used to crush and chew crustaceans and mollusks. Skates resemble rays and are therefore placed in the same order (Batoidei) but are very different in many respects. One of the "odd" things about them is that they are egg layers. Most rays are ovoviviparous (the young hatch within the female and are born fully formed and functioning). My wife and I noticed these strange egg casings as we walked along the beaches of the outer banks of North Carolina. In appearance, they are almost black and rectangular with unusual hooks emanating from each corner. They almost look like an insect! Beach combers call these Mermaid's Purses. The egg is generally laid and hatched under water except for a few which get washed ashore. The incredible design function for the skates egg lies within the hooks which are found at each corner extending out several centimeters. The hooks allow the egg to grab hold of sea weed and remain attached until fully developed. Without such a design, the eggs would be subject to ocean currents and tides and would be prevented from developing in their proper location. Surely, blind evolutionary chance cannot account for such a wonderful mechanism as the four hooks on the Mermaid's Purse! Such wonders remind us of the statement made by the apostle Paul, "For by Him were all things created,..." ( Colossians 1:16).

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