Intricate Underwater Sand Circle Mystery


 Intricate Underwater “Crop Circle” Mystery

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration less than five percent of the world’s oceans have been explored, meaning that 95% of what lies deep underwater on Earth has yet to be seen by human eyes.

One person who has dedicated his life to uncovering the mysteries of the deep is Japanese photographer Yoji Ookata who obtained his scuba license at the age of 21 and has since spent the last 50 years exploring and documenting his discoveries off the coast of Japan. Recently while on a dive near Amami Oshima at the southern tip of the country, Ookata spotted something he had never encountered before: rippling geometric sand patterns nearly six feet in diameter almost 80 feet below sea level. He soon returned with colleagues and a television crew from the nature program NHK to document the origins what he dubbed the “mystery circle.”   Here is what they found.

Not content to flatten farmers’ fields, those dastardly mystery crop circle makers seem to have gone aquatic, judging by the image above. Photographer Yoji Ookata discovered the mysterious, beautiful underwater mandalas off the southern coast of Japan, some 80 feet below ocean surface.

 But upon further investigation, Ookata discovered the humble artists who created the “mystery circle”:

Using underwater cameras the team discovered the artist is a small puffer fish only a few inches in length that swims tirelessly through the day and night to create these vast organic sculptures using the gesture of a single fin. Through careful observation the team found the circles serve a variety of crucial ecological functions, the most important of which is to attract mates.

Apparently the female fish are attracted to the hills and valleys within the sand and traverse them carefully to discover the male fish where the pair eventually lay eggs at the circle’s center, the grooves later acting as a natural buffer to ocean currents that protect the delicate offspring. Scientists also learned that the more ridges contained within the sculpture resulted in a much greater likelihood of the fish pairing.

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To learn more about the circles check out the full scoop over on Spoon and Tamago, and you can see two high resolution desktop photos courtesy of NHK here.

PS Nature’s Intelligent Patterns

Nature is full of patters. Some patterns are genetically encoded (e.g. animal skin patterns, butterfly wings, bird feather patterns, shells etc.),  other are created by animals (e.g. spider web, bird nest, beaver house, etc).

Nature is full of structures built by animals other than humans (or animal architecture, as it is commonly termed) such as termite mounds, wasp and beehives, burrow complexes of rodents, beaver dams, elaborate nests of birds, webs of spiders and many more. 

Often, these structures incorporate sophisticated features such as ventilation, temperature regulation, structural strength, multiple escape routes, traps, bait, special-purpose chambers and many other features.

They may be created by individuals or complex societies of social animals with different forms carrying out specialised roles. These constructions may arise from complex building behaviour of animals…

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Here are few examples:

Spider Web:

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Bird’s Nest:


Beaver Dam:

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Credit for two photos above:

Plant Growth Patterns:

Shell Growth Pattern:


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The bright galaxy NGC 3810 demonstrates classical spiral structure in this very detailed image from Hubble. Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA.

Animal Skin Pattern:

Leopard Skin

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 Butterfly Wings:

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Flocking behavior is the behavior exhibited when a group of birds, called a flock, are foraging or in flight. There are parallels with the shoaling behavior of fish, the swarming behavior of insects, and herd behavior of land animals. Computer simulations and mathematical models which have been developed to emulate the flocking behaviors of birds can generally be applied also to the “flocking” behavior of other species. As a result, the term “flocking” is sometimes applied, in computer science, to species other than birds.

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Please submit a Nature’s pattern which amazed you.


  1. Brenda Brown says

    I get that the puffer fish makes grooves in the sand of the ocean’s floor by the use of one fin, and I see the similarity between its markings and the top part of the ‘crop circle’, but I don’t see it making marks that equal the 2 rings of raised edging that encircle these little grooves. It just seems too symmetrical for me to buy the idea of a puffer fish making this aquatic ‘cake’.


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