Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Fluff #3: For When Enough is Enough

Thing the first: Thar Be Snail Ogres!

Does this look like a beautiful lady to you?
What is the DEAL with sailors?!
Image by Toriyama Sekien via Wikipedia
I'm sharing a cool Echinoblog post I found in the only way anyone finds anything these days - Twitter. In time for halloween, Christopher Mah describes the mythology of and actual inspiration for several Japanese monsters. This being a Mollusc-centric blog, I will feature the Snail Ogre, Sazae-oni, here, which somehow transfigures into a drowning woman, or something convincingly enough like it to attract sailors, who become the snail's next meal. The real snail this legend is based off of is the horned turban snail (Turbo cornutus1). This image also reminds me of Aku.

There are a number of other monsters on there that are worth checking out and attempting at Halloween costumes, such as the Samurai crab, and/or Stephen Hawking, and the internet darling of the year, the dumbo squid.

Thing the second: Killer Whale Espionage

Because you know you want a giant orca photo...L94 and her baby nursing in BROAD DAYLIGHT! She's not even using a blanket, how indecent! Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium
The world is all atwitter, quite literally, about the use of drones in research of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. I've blabbed about some of the recent population growth of this group (here), and there have been even more calves born this year. NOAA just released a video podcast show-and-tell of some recent photos obtained via hexacopter. The contraption, which is strapped to two pool noodles for flotation, flies above the whales to get good pictures of them without disturbing them. They can ID and measure the whales to track growth rates.

Surveillance photos indicate that the babies keep on coming (welcome, Baby L-122!), and the hexacopter provides insight into family life of the growing pods. This year has been a good year for the whales, lots of babies and seemingly well-fed whales. Hopefully that trend lasts.

Thing the third: See Slug Day!

Yesterday was Sea Slug Day! I don't really even have that much to say about it, except that it's worth trolling #SeaSlugDay for the photos, but don't say I didn't warn you that it was a black hole of a time suck! You sort of start to wonder if this group isn't really just an alien race living among us. Or we are a prison planet for all of some other planet's criminals: what with kleptoplasty, and kleptocnidae - they're evidently really just into stealing things, evidently.

Super cutie: O. muricata on E. pilosa

As an undergraduate, I did research on what is the least colorful species in the most colorful group of organisms in the world - Onchidoris muricata. That doesn't mean it wasn't charismatic! I was researching whether this tiny white blob, which you would be well within your rights to assume was some previous beach walker's snot rocker, was interested in eating an invasive bryozoan(2), in the Gulf of Maine. The bryozoan, Membranipora membranacea, was super abundant there, growing all over rocks and kelps. We gave the snot rocket nudibranch a choice between it's presumed preferred food (a native bryo Electra pilosa) and the new bryozoan (which they are probably serving at that gastro street-food from around the world fad place down the street from me), and found that the slug preferred to eat the fancy new food, and could eat it faster.

This was back in 2004, when we wondered, what could this mean for future slugs? Just this year, people are starting to think about whether invasive species are good food for native species - they could be right? Well it turns out that in a lot of cases, they are often beneficial as a supplement to a balanced diet, so they don't harm native species. But on their own, they aren't as good as the diet the predator evolved to eat. So, no you can't have Doritos for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.

Phew, for Friday fluff, that really was some academic non-sense I just prattled on about(3)! Here's a palate-cleansing video... 

Check out this video I found in my archives. Marney Pratt, my Advisor on the project, grew some bryozoans onto a microscopes slide, and fed them a red algae so that they would show up clearly against the background: the red dots you see are individual bryozoans, called zooids. The big white blob is a single Onchidoris, and you're looking at it from beneath, through the side of a tank and the glass slide. Marney filmed this time lapse of the slug eating a single zooid. If you watch closely, there is one zooid that gets slurped out of its little house toward the bottom right. This is sort of like how an oyster drill (predatory snail) consuming an oyster in that "sucks-his-guts-out" is still an applicable description.

SEE! I told you they were charismatic!

References and Miscellany

1. For Turbo Corn Nuts see disambiguation.
2. Bryo (= moss) zoan (= animal). These are colonial organisms that do really cool defensive stuff...maybe some other day though...
3. But if you weren't completely deterred, you could read the paper we (/Marney) wrote here.

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