A lesson about flounder puberty

I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, a TV show that explored the animal world. (And now you know how old I am.) I mention this because I continue to be amazed by the strangeness and beauty of the animal world. Take the peacock flounder for example, one of my all-time favorite creatures to meet when I’m scuba diving.

Peacock flounder are lovely creatures that work very hard at growing up.

As cooks might know, flounders are flat fish with eyes that tend to point in different directions. But did you ever wonder how they became flat? It might surprise you to know that flounders are born just like most other fish, but when they hit fishy puberty, they flop over on one side. This can be rather problematic at first, since that means one of their poor little eyes is now facing down. But no worries. The brilliant flounder can make its bottom eye crawl around its head where it ends up next to the other eye. As I mentioned earlier, the eye positioning is not perfect, which gives the wee guy a bit of an off-kilter look. Still, they adjust and eventually the teenage flounder starts swimming sideways.

Why, you ask? It’s an evolutionary thing. Flounder figured out that it’s easier to hide from predators if they can lie flat on the bottom of the sea. Blending in is important in their watery world, which brings me back to the peacock flounder. These guys have magnificent turquoise spots and purple edges when they’re swimming, but as soon as they alight on something, they change color to blend in, just like their land cousin the chameleon. Isn’t that cool?

Magically, the peacock flounder can turn colors instantly to blend in with its surroundings.

I often thought of the flounder in my high school classroom, where the changes associated with human puberty sometimes popped up in conversation. I realized it was a tough time in the lives of the young people I taught, something we adults understand as we all somehow survived that often tumultuous life change.

Whenever students seemed overwhelmed, I would tell them the story of flounder puberty. I hoped it might make them understand that things could be worse. I mean, imagine if your eye had to crawl to the other side of your head.

Often, the tale elicited a shocked silence, as they tried to wrap their heads around a sideways-swimming fish with a migrating eye. While I thought it was a perfect teachable moment, I sensed the kids just thought me strange.

But we teachers hold on to the hope that maybe, someday, our charges will understand our reasoning, an a-ha moment that will make them remember what we said and why.

In the case of the flounder, said messages would be change is a part of life, we need to monitor and adjust as we go, and that, in regard to puberty, things could have been so much worse.



Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

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2 thoughts on “A lesson about flounder puberty

  1. mIchelle says:

    what a gorgeous fish! I promise you, none of your students forget that story. Your class must have been a dream come true for your students looking to learn something brand new.


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