Wednesday, 9 August 2017

March of the Firesocks

Firesocks! Sea Pickles! More to the point, Pyrosomes!

And a LOT of them.

Video: EVNautilus

From fang-tastic teeth to a frankly inappropriate ability to swim, there are many ways of doing the deep sea right. Here's the Pyrosome's offering. The name means "fire body" because they glow in the dark; they look like individual pickles but are actually colonies composed of thousands of tiny clones; last but not least, they're chordates! That means that while they might remind you of jellyfish or sea-faring corals, they're actually more closely related to humans and all the other things that have a backbone.


Pyrosome colonies are like squidgy socks. Each clone sucks in water, filters out bacteria to feed on, and pumps the water out into the shared, central space. And, as it turns out, there's such a thing as Pyrosome blooms, where lots and lots of them turn up and drift around together. Amassing in vast numbers is a way of life for other weird chordates like the salp, as well as a whole host of deep sea worms and crustaceans.

I'm just happy to know that all those socks that mysteriously disappear from my sock drawer go to a better place.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Divided Flatworm

Image: Zack
Pseudoceros dimidiatus
Is the Divided Flatworm really divided?

It's certainly indecisive...

Image: Bernard DUPONT

Image: Richard Ling
Mega-thick stripes?

Image: Mark Rosenstein
A few teardrops along the edge?

Image: Mark Rosenstein
More than a few?

Image: Thierry Cailleux
How about the tiger look?

Divided Flatworms can reach up to 8 cm (3 in) in length and are widespread in the Indian and West Pacific Oceans.

Underneath it all, they're black with an orange margin around the edge. On that they agree. But once the yellow-green stripes and patterns come into play it's every flatworm for him/herself.

Speaking of which, they're hermaphrodite. No decision made there! When two frisky Divided Flatworms meet they engage in a penis-fencing match to decide which one's going to be left carrying the eggs.

If that's how they make decisions maybe it's best they just don't?

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Bubble Gum Oasis

It's a Bubble Gum Coral!

Isn't it beautiful? Sort of? Underneath it all, maybe?

It's a real oasis, a splash of colour in the darkness of the deep sea, a point of knobbly interest in a desert of rock and mud. And so it's covered in... stuff—clambering crabs, squirming Snake Stars and a whole lot of mysterious, green tendril things.

Apparently, that green stuff is probably some kind of sponge or even algae that got caught in the branches after drifting on the current. That's why you must always dispose of bubble gum responsibly. Even in the deep sea, it has a tendency to attract random bits of fluff.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


Think grasshopper. Grass. Hopper.

Surely, anything called a Sandgroper is the complete opposite of anything that hops about in the grass? Just look at this thing! It looks like a termite mixed with a beetle grub! And if you find yourself thinking that it looks like a Mole Cricket with all the edges rubbed off, then you're not alone. A lot of people used to think that, they just turned out to be wrong, is all.

You see, the insect order Orthoptera splits neatly into two groups: Caelifera (grasshoppers and stuff) and Ensifera (crickets and things). While Mole Crickets and Sandgropers bear certain similarities, they're not all that closely related. Mole Crickets are in Ensifera with all the other crickets, and Sandgropers are part of the grasshopper group.

Admittedly the Sandgroper's very closest relatives are known as Pygmy Mole Crickets, but they turned out to be weird, grasshopper types, too. Not as weird as the Sandgroper, though! It just goes to show, those life choices really matter. Especially if you choose to spend all your life underground...

There are sixteen known species of Sandgroper, almost all of them found digging through the sandy soils of Australia. One species is found in nearby New Guinea, while another lives all the way over in Argentina. All species belong to a family called Cylindrachetidae, which is split into three genera: Cylindracheta, Cylindraustralia and Cylindroryctes. As you may have guessed, Sandgropers are very, very cylindrical. And it's all because of the life subterranean. Every inch of a Sandgroper's body is adapted to living underground, and there are about three of them since they reach about 7 cm long.

It starts with the mole-hands (clearly they went to the same fancy dress shop as the Mole Crickets). These are the front legs, poised to claw at the soil and carve open a path to crawl through. Next, the smooth, rounded head easily slips through the burrow without friction. These front parts of the body are sclerotized, which means they're extra-tough and rigid and also gives them that orange-brown colour. The rest of the thorax is compressed, providing enough space for the other legs to move without getting in the way in those narrow burrows. Finally, a soft, pale abdomen trails behind.

Sandgropers spend the cooler, wetter months just below the surface, before delving into deeper, damper soil in the dry season. They seem to eat pretty much anything, from plant roots and fungi to small insects and spiders, although it's unclear whether they prey on those insects or scavenge on corpses they find.

In fact, a lot is unclear and unknown about Sandgropers. It's just another consequence of a life spent underground!

Sunday, 2 July 2017


Image: Artur Pedziwilk
Iguana iguana
There are Marine Iguanas, Desert Iguanas, Land Iguanas and Rock Iguanas, but if anything can be called, quite simply, The Iguana, then this is it.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Tube-building Amphipod


Looks like someone's got a leaky head. There're nightmares all over the place.
Related Posts with Thumbnails