Friday, 5 February 2016

Strange monstrosa

We got ourselves a new monstrosa! Or at least one of their socks.

Also a whole bunch of new Xenoturbella! Do you remember Xenoturbella? They were the Strange Worms found at the bottom of the North Sea near Sweden and named Xeno (strange or alien) turbella (a name referring to the free-living flatworms of the class Turbellaria) because they looked like flatworms with even fewer body parts than usual.

Scientists spent decades trying to figure out what the thing was. Genetic tests indicated they were some kind of bizarre, bivalve who'd lost its shell (among other things). But then it turned out the samples were contaminated by actual bivalve tissue the Strange Worm had apparently eaten. Later tests suggested they might actually be more closely related to echinoderms like starfish and sea urchins.

The basic question was this: are Xenoturbella related to complex animals blessed with numerous body parts? If that's the case it would mean they must have lost their brain, gut, anus and other body parts along the way, much like some kind of intestinal parasite who has no need for such organs.

Or are they instead some incredibly ancient lineage of creatures who arose some time after the jellyfish and never acquired all those juicy body parts in the first place?

Well, it's taken a whole bunch of time, but they've finally found no less than FOUR new species of Xenoturbella! The Scripps Institution of Oceanography must have thought they were late to the party after seeing all those deflated balloons strewn across the Pacific Ocean floor!

The new species range in size from 2.5 cm (an inch) long in X. hollandorum to a whopping 20 cm (8 in) in the wonderfully named X. monstrosa. They're all found near interesting, lively, deep sea habitats like hydrothermal vents, cold seeps and whale carcasses. These are all places with enough food to support a community of creatures, including the bivalves which seem to make up Xenoturbella's diet.

And, after yet more genetic analysis, it looks like they're archaically simple. They're not like snakes who lost their legs. cave fish who lost their eyes or tapeworms who lost almost everything. Instead, they're Strange Worms who never had those things in the first place.

Now all they have to do is find out how they mange to eat bivalves despite having no teeth in their tiny mouths!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Sea Gooseberry

Image: National Museums Northern Ireland
It's an alien spaceship in outer space!

Image: joe
Passing by a nebula!

Image: Alan Moore
And... oh. It's a blue screen. Well, I guess that's the magic of Hollywood.

Sea Gooseberries are tiny, little comb jellies belonging to the genus Pleurobrachia. They're only about 2.5 cm (an inch) long, although that doesn't include two tentacles which can each reach a length of something like 15 cm (6 in).

Video: Parafilms

Like most other comb jellies, Sea Gooseberries swim around using the rhythmic beating of eight rows of tiny, iridescent cilia.

Their tentacles trail behind them and branch out to create a kind of net. The tentacles are also covered in sticky cells known as colloblasts, just to make absolutely sure that tiny prey like copepods and the like can't escape.

Definitely not a spaceship, then. Though I still think ATTACK OF THE SPACE GOOSEBERRIES could be a hit. All you have to do is make them big enough to pick up and eat a man and you got yourself a classic!

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Change the world with a bunch of squid!

Image: Richard Ling
A bunch of squid? A BUNCH?

That, dear reader, is the problem.

Image: Richard Ling
A murder of crows. A parliament of owls. A gaggle of geese.

A cackle of hyenas. A leap of leopards. A tower of giraffes.

A knot of toads. A shiver of sharks. A... what... of squid?

Image: Daniel Kwok
Of course, the answer SHOULD be squad. A squad of squid. Look at them, they even swim in formation! What else could they possibly be? If lion's have their pride then squid must surely have their squad?

And yet our scientific lords and masters in their ivory towers and submarines appear blissfully unaware of their moral obligation to officially squadify all squid.

This is where you come in. Do you have a big piece of cardboard and a stick? Then make a "SQUAD OF SQUID" placard and tag along with your nearest protest march. Are you a vandal? Then consider spray painting "SQUAD OF SQUID" rather than your delinquent gang symbols. Do you have a squid suit? Several squid suits? Several squid suits and several friends each willing to wear a squid suit? Then walk around town together and if anyone asks, inform them that you're a SQUAD OF SQUID. And say it quite loud so people can overhear.

Or perhaps, before all that, you might consider signing the SQUAD OF SQUID petition. Hopefully that'll get their attention. But I warn you, if that doesn't work, it's squid suits for everyone.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

A Worm With Ambition

I love worms that have ambition!

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Blues V

Image: Hiyashi Haka
Lamprotornis caudatus
It's time for the blues! Either that or I'm a week late... Oh dear. Failure upon failure! Blues upon blues! Well, I guess it makes sense, really. Blues are eternal, after all. Haven't you heard? It's blues all the way down! At least on this page...

Friday, 22 January 2016


Image: NOAA Photo Library
Oooo... Aaaaah...

Nice to see some fireworks brightening up the abyss!
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