Friday, 18 December 2015

Watering Pot Shell

Image: Ria Tan
Verpa penis
It's Verpa penis! Just sort of... lying there.

Poor Verpa.

Image: Photos of NUS Toddycats & ICCS
I'm only joking, of course. Verpa isn't some unfortunate, detached fellow. It's actually an old, Latin vulgarity which means "penis".

So... yeah.

Image: Ria Tan
But let's put our prudish hat on because the "Watering Pot Shell", as Mr. Bowdler would have it, is more than just a sex object. In fact it's 12 cm (5 in) of pure, unmitigated not-sex-object. Or maybe just slightly mitigated. It does look a little suspect.

But it's actually a bivalve! A relative of clams and oysters and mussels. It's just that it's become all long and thin and tubular.

Image: Ria Tan
They live buried in the seabed of southeast Asia, looking something like an upside-down carrot. The narrow end sticks out of the ground and two long, fleshy tubes known as siphons emerge from it. One of these siphons sucks in water, the other squirts it back out, and the Watering Pot Shell filters out its food along the way.

Lots of bivalves feed using siphons like this and some of them even have extremely long siphons, but few protect them with a load of shell like this.

Image: Ria Tan
The other side is also rather unique. It lies deep beneath the surface and bears lots of tiny holes, like the spout of a watering can. They may use this to take in yet more food and perhaps to dig into the sand to their preferred depth.

Image: Ria Tan
Speaking of shell. Take a close look. Take a real, close look. It's just a watering can, honest! Take a close look and you can see what looks like a tiny, traditional bivalve shell etched into the surface like a decoration. This is actually their original, childhood shell! As they grow and build their watering pot, the original shell becomes a kind of decorative heirloom.

Poor, old Verpa. Got himself a beautiful watering can to compensate for his weird-looking verpa and then lost them both!


elfinelvin said...

That is fascinating! You really have to wonder why evolution takes these weird turns sometimes.

TexWisGirl said...

how interesting!

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

@elfinelvin: I know, they seem to have found a whole new way of becoming a tube-worm!

@TexWisGirl: Yup, very strange!

Susan A. said...

Y'know all those weird heteromorphic ammonites? There seems to be endless speculation on how they managed to swim with their awkward shells. I wonder if they just lived buried in the sand like this, sneaking out their tentacles to snag passing victims.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

That would be incredibly cool! With all those worms and sea anemones doing that I'd love a cephalopod to get in on it, too

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