The finches found on the Galápagos Islands are well known for their variation in beak size and shape. Different beaks are effective at utilizing different food sources. Recent research gives us a glimpse of one way God provides for his creatures. Two phases of embryonic development are important in establishing the final beak shape of an adult bird. Within this amazingly complex design, changes in gene expression allow for final differences in beak shape to be realized while still allowing for a functional beak. Beaks vary in three dimensions: length, width, and depth. Since there are two phases of development involved, two of these dimensions can vary together, or independently. This helps us begin to understand how diversity arises in created kinds as creatures have carried out God directive to be fruitful and increase on the earth (Genesis 1:22; 8:17).
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26 (NIV)
This species of jellyfish is known as Cassiopeia andromeda or the upside down jellyfish. It has a fascinating mutual relationship with specific algae. Studies have shown that for some of these jellyfish, if not all, they can recognize the right alga from the wrong ones. The algae provide oxygen through photosynthesis and allow the jellyfish to survive in oxygen poor waters. Algae also provide food. In return, the jellyfish provides a habitat for the algae and lays upside down on the marine bottom so that the algae can get the most out of the sun for photosynthesis. To make relations more complicated, crabs may pick up the jellyfish and put them on their backs for added protection, since jellyfish have stinging cells.
As creation biologists we are interested in unusual relationships in creation. Recently there has been a fascinating discovery of an association between the black-marble jawfish (Stalix cf. histrio) and the mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus). The mimic octopus is known to make itself look like “toxic flatfish, lionfish, and even sea snakes by creatively configuring its limbs, adopting characteristic undulating movements, and displaying bold brown-and-white color patterns.” This allows the octopus to swim without fear of predators. The jawfish is a timid little guy with the same markings as the octopus and was just recently observed swimming with the octopus in a way that you have to look closely to see where the jawfish begins and the octopus ends. Truly this is a relationship in which a Fish Mimics an Octopus that Mimics a Fish!
God promises that He alone will restore peace on earth and good will toward men. This peace will also be brought to creation as a whole. God’s Word gives a glimpse as to what this will look like.
“And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox… The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.”
[Isa. 1:5-7; 65:25]
There is an interesting story out of Russia about a captive male bear by the name of Balu who, together with the female Masha, are taking equal care of their cub Diva. This is highly unusual with most species of bears because females rear the cubs and males are considered a threat to them. Could this be a glimpse of the future restoration? The story of this unusual male bear can be seen here.
Orchids, such as the lady slipper orchids, are not only amazingly beautiful flowers but they are part of one of the biggest and most diverse families in the plant kingdom. Though highly diverse, they have one thing in common; they are dependent on specific fungi for their survival. Orchid fungi are mysteriously unique in the world of mycorrhizae. It does not yet appear that the fungus gains anything from the relationship, but there is still much to learn. See a Biblical Basis for Ecology for more details.
One of the best things about studying the world around us is that we are able to catch a glimpse of how our Creator sustains the world by his power (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). We have mentioned that the triune God would logically create a world dependent on relationships, since this reflects his very nature (See Solar Powered Salamanders). These relationships between different creatures in the natural world are known as symbiosis. Ironically, many symbiotic relationships are with creatures that are so small they cannot be seen without a microscope. These microbes (microorganisms), such as bacteria, form what has been called a biomatrix. How humbling to realize that our lives depend on microbes! Yet this is not surprising given what we know about God from Scripture. Isn’t it just like God to use seemingly weak microbes to humble us and remind us of His awesome power and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)?