Gaussia: The Bomb-Dropping Copepod

From Issue: Discovery 10/1/2015

Like insects on land, crustaceans fill the oceans of the world. They come in many different shapes and sizes. One very common form is the copepod. Many copepods are bioluminescent. They typically release their bioluminescent chemicals into the water to produce a glowing cloud of light. This luminous smoke screen serves to distract or blind an attacker. The copepod can then swim quickly away from danger into the darkness.

One fascinating shrimp-like copepod that God created is the Gaussia princeps. Gaussia stores its supply of chemicals in glands located on its tail. When a predator approaches this vulnerable little fellow, it shoots out a stream of glowing blue goo. The predator’s attention is immediately drawn away from the copepod to the movement of the blue stream. Then suddenly the goo gives off a bright flash of white light. The flash so startles the predator that it is unable to process what is happening. The copepod is able to slip away and avoid becoming a meal.

Gaussia’s incredible ability reminds us of World War 2 Navy ships that released depth charges that would be dropped into water close to submerged enemy submarines. A time delay allowed the ship to move away while the charges sank down to get close to the submarine before exploding. Similarly, Gaussia emits its bioluminescent fluid as it swims swiftly in the opposite direction. Just as the bluish fluid is about to disappear, a bright flash ensues that “blinds” the predator and distracts him from pursuing the little copepod.

It’s hard to believe that anyone would think that such marvelous abilities could come about by chance adjustments over millions of years. The truth is, God designed this incredible creature. After all, “The sea is His, for He made it” (Psalm 95:5). We should all say with the psalmist:

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all: the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great…. These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things (Psalm 104:24-28—ESV).


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