Some reflections on a strange-looking fish.

“… by day these fish remain in the gloomy depths and towards evening they rise to the upper layers of the water column to feed by starlight, returning to deep water by daybreak.” – Wikipedia

Even in the case of strange creatures like the Fangtooth, one may find a certain poetic beauty. There is something poignant about this ugly chap who rises from the depths to feed by starlight.

Given the world we can observe about us, together with the microscopic and subatomic world and the abstract world of mathematics, we might ask ourselves what the God who made things is really like. Add to this consideration the fossil history of the world – it’s past zoology and botany -evidenced by long-extinct species of which the dinosaurs are but one example, God (whoever/whatever we understand the word “god” to mean) certainly appears to be the enigma of enigmas. Why create giant flesh-eating dinosaurs? To what end a world of shifting seismic plates and random global catastrophes, bizarre insects and viruses? Opinions (and dogmatic assertions) on this matter are infinitely varied, and it is worthwhile listening to the Christian fundamentalist as much as the militant atheist if only to ponder the variety of perspectives. I confess I think the jury’s still out. Irrespective of our conclusions It does appear the creator of the world made some strange things, which I propose must in some measure inform our opinion of ‘him’ (him being merely a  convenient pronoun). Consider for instance the “Fangtooth”, or Anoplogaster, pictured above and below. While strangeness is subjective (as are all our concepts of beauty and ugliness), perhaps Anoplogaster’s unfortunate appearance is beautiful to God?


Above: image of Fangtooth courtesy of

Monstrous creatures of the depths are “monstrous” because we have a preconceived notion of the monstrous. It’s really just a construct. Beauty and ugliness are relative concepts: Umberto Eco’s On Beauty and On Ugliness are a useful introduction to a very complex subject.

So-called monstrous creatures certainly challenge our understanding of the sectio aurea, although who knows if an ichthyologist would not find the Golden Section right there in the scales and teeth of Anoplogaster? I suspect she would.

Perhaps it would be useful look at monstrous creatures another way – through a microscope for instance.


ABOVE: Surface of zebrafish skin

The microscope reveals a world which, for me as a graphic designer, provide a powerful argument for – if not a nice friendly deity – then certainly for intelligent design. No one throws some balls of wool on the table and a Kaffe Fassett jersey appears. No amount of atheist rant will convince me that an Afghan balouch could manifest with out the artistry of an Afghan weaver.


Above: detail of an Afghan Balouch rug. Mid 20th century.

I imagine the mediaeval theologian Thomas Aquinas peering through an electron microscope and saying to the huddle of peeved atheists, “I told you so”. (Dawkins on the other hand, a copy of his own book The Blind Watchmaker, would remain stubbornly unconvinced.)


The Fangtooth isn’t particularly large compared, say, to a human being (though to a human embryo this aquatic carnivore would appear as a leviathan). In matters of the monstrous, clearly size counts.


Above: Monstrous monsters. You just know this isn’t going to end well.

It is interesting to note that the humble zebrafish is a distant cousin of ours. Apparently we share 70% of the fish’s genes. It’s a disquieting thought that you and I are related – albeit in the ancient past – to Anoplogaster.

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