Nature Blog Network

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Screw EndNote, Try Zotero

From Courthouse News (via Crooked Timber via Boing Boing):

"Thomson Reuters demands $10 million and an injunction to stop George Mason University from distributing its new Web browser application, Zotero software, an open-source format that allows users to convert Reuters' EndNote Software. Reuters claims George Mason is violating its license agreement and destroying the EndNote customer base.

Thomson Reuters also sued the Commonwealth of Virginia, in Richmond City Court. George Mason, founded in 1972, is a state institution.

Reuters says its EndNote Software "allows end users to search online bibliographic databases, organize their references, images, and .pdfs in any language, and instantly create bibliographic reference style files and figure lists in Thomson's proprietary .ens style format for over 3,500 journals and publications."

The complaint states, "Dr. Daniel J. Cohen, Associate Professor, Department of History and Art History, and the director of GMU's Center for History and New media, developed Zotero, which is a freely distributable, open-source software based research tool that allows users to gather, organize and analyze sources, including citations, and freely share the results with others."

The Center for History and New Media release "a new beta version of Zotero to the general public" on July 8. Reuters adds, "A significant and highly touted feature of the new beta version of Zotero, however, is its ability to convert - in direct violation of the License Agreement - Thomson's 3,500 plus proprietary .ens style files within the EndNote Software into free, open source, easily distributable Zotero .csl files."
It claims GMU reverse engineered Reuters' EndNote software to create Zotero"
I've heard of Zotero before, but it sort of irks me when a large corporation sues their userbase because they were smart enough to figure out their proprietary format on their own. It is not like Cohen and GMU stole company secrets. They reverse engineered the file format. Kudos to them I say! I am downloading Zotero right now and will be testing out that file format conversion feature on my library of 3500+ articles (with pdfs). It actually looks pretty cool! Check out their homepage. This will be a great addition my growing collection of open source software including NeoOffice, Mozilla and R. I'll test it out and post a review after several days. In the meanwhile, why not download and install Zotero for yourself in protest, or at least out of curiosity.

Applied Abstractions states:
"Zotero is a better tool, too. Shared lists, bibliographies, support for clipping from searches, including Google Scholar. Instant saves from browsing.

Time to move, methinks. Let me see, how hard would it be to migrate my 2100+ article database.... "

Seeking Boneyard Submissions!

Next week on Oct. 7 I am set to host the Boneyard blog carnival! The Boneyard is a collection of blog posts on all things palaeo. Lets get lots of palaeo-invert posts!

I need your submissions so dig through your strata and dust off the fossils you have buried under all that other muck. Leave a comment with link here or email me (address over there in the sidebar -->) submissions. Submissions do not have to be from your own blog. You can submit entries you liked that other people wrote too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Species from Australian Reefs

You probably saw all the posts about the new species found on and in the Australian reefs from the recent Census of Marine Life efforts there.

The video of Heron Island sampling at the CoML website is a great watch, good invert sampling in the last half of the video.

A second video from New Tang Dynasty Television is available on YouTube which actually does a decent job of reporting on the discoveries, including showing a good photo of the tongue eating isopods (outside of their hosts).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sea Squirt Sperm Races



Botrylloides and Botryllus, originally uploaded by top.down.

Miriam at the Oysters Garter has an hilarious and informative post up about a quite serious subject, sperm size and reproductive success in broadcast spawners. Yes, size does matter! So does speed and quantity and...

The image above is from a researcher where I work study showing Botrylloides and Botryllus species of Urochordata. While neither Botrylloides nor Botryllus are endangered, (the topic of this weeks Life Photo Meme) these invasive colonial tunicates are endangering other benthic organisms. Of course the urochordata sexual habits have been discussed here before...

Classification for Botryllus schlosseri

Kingdom
Animalia

Phylum
Chordata

Subphylum
Urochordata

Class
Ascidiacea

Order
Pleurogona

Family
Botryllidae

Genus
Botryllus

Species
Botryllus schlosseri

Friday, September 26, 2008

What is it all about?



Friggin hilarious, thanks Roman!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

6 of the Deadliest Killer Insects

From the WebEcoist:

These deadly insects are naturally designed to kill. The effects of their bites range from painful to deadly for humans, and they inject their prey with lethal salivary secretions that immobilize them and ease ingestion and digestion. These six represent some of the stranger and more interesting assassins of the insect world.

Hat tip to Maria.

Molluscan Zodiac

A new site has sprung up... The Molluscan Zodiac run by Keith Bradnam.

Hmmmm... looking at his definitions of the cast of characters I see potential trouble here...

From his description of the character traits of the Snail:

Slow in both body and mind; snails are loyal yet stupid, giving yet selfish. Snails do not get on with barnacles, limpets, clams, or squids, and at best, only ever tolerate slugs.

For a sample horoscope, how about the Limpet for this week...
The Limpet
March 10th - May 1st

Big developments will occur in the bedroom this week. Make sure your sheets are clean. Take a second look at what you are wearing. Your friends think that it is time that you burn your wardrobe. Maybe they are right?


Hmmm. so acordin to this zodiak I'm a Barnacle... hmmmm... yeah, not going to touch that one.

So what's Your sign?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Life and Death through the Macro Lens

Life and Death of Aphids
Aphid life and death, originally uploaded by Lord V.

LordV on flickr captured this scene of life and death on the micro scale. A wingless aphid (possibly Toxoptera citricida)gives live-birth to a nyph that was developed through parthenogenisis (unfertilized egg). Right beside her is the remains of another aphid who was the victim of a parasitic wasp (which may itself reproduce pathenogenetically).

The wasp injects her eggs into aphids, often directly in front of any guardian ants. When the wasp egg hatches the larva eats the aphid from the inside, hollowing out a space to pupate within at the same time. Once metamorphosis is complete, the adult wasp cuts a circular hole in the tail end of the aphid husk to facilitate it's eclosion.

I recommend spending a little time looking at LordV's flickr stream. He is a talented macro photographer, mostly with insects and arachnids as his subjects. (Though his flowers-in-a-dewdrop photos are also great.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Locust Love

I was cruising the BBC Motion Gallery web site for some clips and I came across this one of locust love.

video

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wilted Greens



Did you know that the Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) prefers wilted or damaged sunflowers? This one is seen on a sunflower that was damaged in recent winds we had here (tail end of Hanna). I wondered why it was that the grasshoppers (2 found) and the evidence of grasshopper activity – chewed leaves and copious amounts of feces – was all on the damaged sunflowers and not on the still healthy plants.

In 1984, A. C. Lewis published a study in Ecology which showed M. differentialis has a strong preference for wilted and damaged sunflowers. In Feeding choice trials only 1% of grasshoppers feeding on undamaged sunflower tissue when damaged or wilted tissue was available as well. The wilted leaves have higher sucrose and soluble amino acid concentrations.

In growth trials, grasshoppers which fed on mixed diet of both damaged and healthy sunflower tissue had a higher growth rate at all stages, higher fecundity, and higher survival. Grasshoppers fed only fresh healthy leaves had slower consumption rates, lower food conversion efficiency, and interestingly also had a higher feeding rate of molted skins.


The higher survival and fecundity rates may be because of the difference in diet directly, but it is likely that in part these are a result of the higher growth rate of the instar stages and increased size and health of the adults. (Bigger healthier females -> more eggs, and more robust eggs)


Classification of the Differential grasshopper:
Kingdom
Animalia

Phylum
Arthropoda

Subphylum
Hexapoda

Class
Insecta

Order
Orthoptera

Suborder
Caelifera

Family
Acrididae

Genus
Melanoplus

Species
Melanoplus differentialis



References:
A. C. Lewis (1984). Plant Quality and Grasshopper Feeding: Effects of Sunflower Condition on Preference and Performance in Melanoplus Differentialis Ecology, 65 (3), 836-843

Invertebrates Taking Over NEAq

Thanks our blog friend Jeff Ives, The Other 95% is a featured blog in the latest issue of blue, the New England Aquarium's newsletter! If you are in Boston, make sure you check the Aquarium out, they have lots of stuff going on by the looks of the exciting homepage. Also, NEAq staff and collaborators are out at sea right now in the Sea of Cortez on an exciting expedition. Check out their blog for great articles on what is going on out there.

Thanks Jeff!



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How Much Are Insects Worth?

This may be the ultimate ecosystem service. The NC State University Insect Museum blog reports from a new study that calculated the worth of insects to agriculture:

"Looks like insects' total contributions to agriculture amount to €153,000,000,000 ($216,372,000,000), which is almost 10% of the value of all human food worldwide."
O M G That is some serious figures! Go to the NC State Insect Museum blog to get the details and the link to the study. Bookmark it too, it is an excellent blog!

Praxis #2

The 2nd edition of the wonderful blog carnival about living the academic life is up at the wonderful, and well-dressed, Life v. 3.0. Praxis is a "Meta-Scientific Carnival, covering life, liberty and the pursuit of science". Hang around there and learn a little something about rock microbes and other geobiological wanderings.

Cephalopod of Love

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Underrepresented AGAIN!!

MSNBC has posted a list of the "Eight organisms that make you go 'eww': Slimy, stinky, icky and ugly — these creatures gross us out"

In typical fashion the inverts have been underrepresented yet again! But, then again maybe this time it's not such a bad thing. Among the 8 organisms on the list there are 2 plants (including for some odd reason the amazing Corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum)), 2 vertebrates (skunk and turkey vulture) and 4 inverts.

Who are the inverts? Glad you asked (or didn't)

  1. Holothurians (sorry Chris!) - cause they "hurl some of their internal organs out of their anus"
  2. Bot fly larvae - cause they tend to get under their skin a little. Sheesh!
  3. The dung beetle - just because they "dive right into a steaming pile" (the compiler even acknowledges that they do a lot of good, but no redemption for the beetles, they are stuck in the unclean caste.
  4. The hagfish - We've covered this one before, but just because it is slimey and lacks backbone is no reason to spit on it.


I must admit I do agree with them on the human botfly larvae. I dealt with the like in Somalia and hope never to run into one again. I'm still waiting for someone to offer me a reason for appreciating them.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On the Failure of Names

There is so much I could say about Karen's latest post, but I will defer to her and Mr. Prosek. Here are a few quotes I like:

"I began to understand that species were less static than the fathers of modern taxonomy—those like Carl Linnaeus—once believed. That nature was static and classifiable was an idea perpetuated by the natural history museum (repository for dead nature), the zoo (repository for living nature), and the book (repository for thoughts and images related to nature). These mediums were all distillations of nature, what individuals of authority deemed an appropriate cross section to present to the public. None had adequately represented Nature—at once chaotic, multifarious, and interconnected."

"Naming gives us the illusion that nature is fixed, but it is as fluid as the language used to describe it."

"I was conflicted—I loved the names that had first led me to recognize the existence of diversity (golden trout, Oncorhynchus aguabonita; blueback
trout, Salvelinus oquassa), but as I learned more I wanted to throw away the names, step beyond those constraints, in order to preserve a sense of wonder that I had felt from an early age."
Needless to say I will be putting in an order. While I am at it, I may just buy a few of his other beautiful books for my son and I to read!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Play in the Zooplankton Soup

Another opportunity to actually get paid for what you love to do anyways – to work with Invertebrates!

The NERC Strategic Research Division of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton is looking for amarine zooplankton biologist to develop and lead a group to study zooplankton ecology. A chance to be part of a rich multi-disciplinary team collaborating with physical oceanographers, biochemists and phytoplankton biologists as part of the Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems Group.

They're looking for someone with a Ph.D. in biological science with proven experience leading experimental and observational studies of marinezooplankton. The work will combine in vivo lab experiments with in situ observations using video plankton recorders, nets and ROV's.

For more info and to apply check out www.jobs.soton.ac.uk reference number is 2719-08-E, close date October 10th.

Clean up time!

Mark your calendars down for the 20th of September for International Coastal Cleanup Day. Donate a couple hours to helping to clean up the beaches and waterways of litter both above and below the waters surface. In my own area there will be at least three separate efforts including one sponsored by the University's EcoHusky and diving clubs. Other local efforts are being sponsored by the local nature center and the Mystic Aquarium.

To find out what groups are organizing in your area you can register as a volunteer, or contact your local US coordinator (pdf) or international coordinator (pdf) directly.


Trashed Home
A hermit crab found Alex and I found on Southwater Caye in Belize using a bottle cap as a shell. Of course this is indicative of a two fold problem.

#1 - a lack of available size-appropriate shells caused in part by increased shell collecting
#2 - too much trash available

Classification of the Caribbean Hermit or Tree-Climbing Crab:
Kingdom
Animalia

Phylum
Arthropoda

Subphylum
Crustacea

Class
Malacostraca

Order
Amphipoda

Suborder
Decapoda

Family
Coenobitidae

Genus
Coenobita

Species
Coenobita clypeatus



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A lobster and an ex-butcher

...walk into an art performance space. 60 minutes later only one walks out.

Three guesses which one. Ok...so this is supposed to be art?

Lobster (foreground) and man

ACCIDENS explores one of the foundational themes of western drama: Boy meets lobster.

You all know the story: Boy meets lobster. Boy suspends lobster from microphone cable hanging from ceiling. Boy smokes small cigar, douses lobster with water, rubber bands from lobster's claws, removes lobster from cable, places lobster on butcher's block, hacks lobster to pieces with large cleaver, places lobster on flat grill, uncorks bottle of white wine, pours glass, and enjoys pensively while lobster's dismembered body parts jerk sporadically on grill. Boy eats lobster.

Yes, it's performed in front of a live paying audience. I like to think I have a fairly liberal interpretation of art, but this...maybe I just don't get it.

Help?

Tardigrades In Space

The Invincible Wasserbär! What? What do you mean it's not a water bear??

Some how that title just screams "Piiiigs iiiinnn Spaaa-aace!" to me...
but the news is in about the space faring water bears aboard the shuttle.
Vacuum ? bah,
Freezing ? Ho-hum
Dessication? So what!
Uh, oh cosmic radiation?!
Nope got that covered too.
Cosmic radiation plus direct solar radiation?
Ok, that one hurts.
But still enough of us will survive and quickly start up again!!
We haz no kryptonite! We iz invincible!

For more see Miriam's posting at The Oyster's Garter.

Next stop MARS!!! Bwaa ha ha!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Linnaeus Legacy #11

Linnaeus Legacy is a blog carnival that seeks to highlight and celebrate Carl Linnaeus and his many contributions to science. Linnaeus left a lot of legacy to look at - taxonomy, biodiversity, botany and ecology were fields either created or heavily influenced by his work and ideas. Today he is most famous for binomial nomenclature and as the father of taxonomy. He was also a major contributor to botany, perhaps best known in that field now for his extremely risque (for the time) description of the reproductive systems of flowering plants. He influenced what would become ecology with his understanding of life forms in conflict with each other and as a part of its environment. So, on with the carnival!


Taxonomy in General

Let's start with some broad understandings of techniques and methods of taxonomy and the study of the diversity of life with Wild Shores of Singapore, highlighting a report from a recent annual meeting of taxonomists in Why Planet Earth Needs Taxonomists.

Peter Suber at Open Access News also covered the meeting's press release with a focus on one of the issues: bringing the 250 year old classification system Linnaeus originated into the 21st century with PhyloCode and Zoobank, an online, open access registry of organism names. Peter also provides some background reading on Zoobank elsewhere on the Open Access News site. Somehow I see Zoobank and the issues around it and PhyloCode being a regular topic in future Linnaeus Legacy editions.

Also reporting on news from a conference (on arachnids), romunov shares news of Anelosimus biglebowski and several other new species named for people real and fictional in Names in science – what a headache! If you have a species named after a person or yourself, let him know. (We'll have one later in this carnival for him too!)

Linnaeus Legacy founder Christopher Taylor, at Catalogue of Organisms, wrestles with the two personalities of taxonomy – nomenclature and systematics – describing each clearly and assessing it as a science as he asks a deceptively simple question: Is Taxonomy a Science?

John Wilkins reports on the decision from the UK House of Lords that "Systematics is Sick", as well as highlighting a new OA journal, Zookeys, for the description of new taxa.

In addition to being an excellent insect photographer, Alex Wild is a biologist working with insect evolution. From his new job he reports on some of the scientific names that have come from the taxonomist he will be working with. He hints that he and Paul Marsh will continue to bring playful and irreverent new names to the Heterospilus genus.

Monomorium by Alex Wild


Taxonomy Methods & Theory

While many reported on the naming of a trapdoor spider for Stephen Colbert, Carl Zimmer brought us the method Jason Bond used to determine how many species were in this group of trapdoor spiders in The species dating game.

Mr. Mymecos (Alex Wild) is back with some of his research about using 8 genes for phylogenetic analysis of the beetle family tree. Of course, his Friday Beetle Blogging is also worthy of mention in the legacy.

Charles Siegel examines phylogenetic trees from a purely mathematical point of view using algebraic geometry, combinatorics and probability. This is a really intriguing posting I want to take a longer look at in detail.


Biodiversity and Ecology

Anthony Judd at Small fish, Big Apple summarizes an important paper which calls for national to global-scale biodiversity measurements, which could be done using the information in current systems and combining them in a common data network with standardized data collection and reporting.


Mycetozoa

Miriam Goldstein brings the BORG to The Oyster's Garter! She shows compelling evidence that lowly slime molds are in fact smarter than Harry Potter. Of course, I'm not so sure how smart the whole sex = death bit is...but hey, it sure seems to work for them. You have to check out the video. Awesome. Now Miriam, can you spin that post to be a conversation opener?


Cnidaria

Christopher is back with E Pluribus Unum at Catalogue of Organisms. With a sprinkling of pages from Kunstformen der Nature, he brings us a detailed overview of the Siphonophores, planktonic "superorganisms" that can grow to 30m long or more!


Mollusca

Dracovenator's Adam Yates covers a genus of Australian cowries – the Umbilia. An interesting group for several reasons, including direct development and a diversity of forms, which Adam shows with some beautiful fossil shells that reach back to the Oligocene.

A newly discovered species of giant clam was brought to the blogosphere by many, including Deep Sea News and Shifting Baselines, with the evidence that the new clam was possibly the first overexploited marine species.

Recently, Snail, of A Snail's Eye View, decided it was time to expand into studying the bivalves, discovering along the way that bivalves don't all look the same! First up are the delicate Laternulids. Snail's struggles with bivalves are continued systematically with a steady start until...

Umbilia eximia from dracovenator.blogspot.com

Arthopoda

Hermit crab diversity is on the mind of the guys at Diversity of Form, this month with wonderful photographs in a beautifully illustrated entry showing hermits from the POV of aquaria keepers.

In our own submission to Linnaeus Legacy, I petitioned for conservation of whale lice and then expanded on that tongue-in-cheek call with Right Whale Lice, covering some recent literature, as well as doing my best to field a number of questions in the comments. (Thanks for that!)

Pylopaguropsis keijii from glassbox-design

Chordata

When a new species of bird is discovered, it is news to be spread, and two of our contributors had great posts on the discovery of the olive-backed forest robin! A DC Birding Blog has an excellent overview of the discovery, while GrrlScientist offers a complete review of the paper describing the new bird from Zootaxa. (And a beautiful bird it is too!)


Everything in one

Kate of The Radula – still the hand's down best blog (or superhero) name evah! – has created a new Life Photo Meme that fits right in with Linnaeus Legacy. The meme seeks to celebrate the diversity of life on Earth through a weekly posting of a picture of something alive or once alive and a description of the organism or the meaning of the image to the poster. Many participants have taken to also providing the Linnaean classification of the organism they show. There are weekly optional themes, including my personal favorite - First Thursday Honor an Invert Day!

Previous participants have posted nudibranchs, Brain Corals, Fracking Ants, assorted invertebrates, great blue heron and harvestmen, among many more. I know Kate would like to invite everyone to take part. Just post an image of some organism on (or close to ) Thursday, then go to the latest Life Photo Meme entry and post a comment in the entry linking back your contribution. Inclusion of the meme badge in the post or the technorati tag lifephotomeme will help track all contributions. Kate will also be hosting a future Linnaeus Legacy at Life Photo Meme.

Microcentrum rhombifolium from Kate

Ecology

Linnaeus' ideas contributed greatly to the field of natural studies that would become ecology soon after his death. In the spirit of those contributions we have two ecological entries.

First up is a very intersting behavioral ecology, and philosophy contribution from Greg Laden on magpies and mirrors. Magpies, it turns out, "get" mirrors. Specifically, they recognize that the image in the mirror is indeed their reflection and are seen to groom areas of their body, using the mirror, which they normally can not see. Of course there are deep cognitive and philosophical issues which Greg touches on and it also changes our understanding of the biological prerequisites for self-recognition significantly.

On a fun "games and outreach" note, Andrea at Learnscape.org asks "Can You Survive the Call of the Wild?" Wolfquest is a game that can be played on or offline, in which you must conquer the ecological challenges of life as a wolf in Yellowstone. The game was developed in part by the Minnesota Zoo. I must admit I have not yet played this one, but hopefully I can squeeze a few hours free to play test it for my son soon. I wonder if they included the recent research that wolves seem to prefer fishing over hunting...


Extras

Rod Page of iPhylo pointed out a technology demo of a multi-touch display system that will rock when placed in museums and science exploration centers. The demo at iPhylo features someone navigating through a visual ITIS classification database. Heck, I would love to have a multi-touch visual taxonomy browser and explorer in my living room. Can you imagine tracking the Craig and Peter's latest expeditions in a giant Google Earth interface like that?

From Jessica Palmer of Bioephemera comes Singing about phylogeny!

Carl Zimmer returns with an account of 30 hours of celebrating Darwin and Linnaeus at the Chautaugua Institution, including a transcript of his contribution to the celebrations.

Emmet Duffy at The Natural Patriot gives an in depth, but easy to read, review of a very important recent paper in PNAS, looking at biodiversity and limits to growth. The bottom line is that we (i.e. Homo sapiens) caused a sudden and irreversible planet-wide ecosystem shift away from high biodiversity. The rest of Emmet's post is filled with interesting facts and ideas that really cause one to pause, think and rethink.


Finally

Much of taxonomy is done in museums. Their collections are often the residence of the critically important type specimens. One of the finest museums is the National Museum of Natural History. The museum and taxonomy lost a friend and colleague when Cynthia Ahearn passed away on August 31st, at an entirely too young age. Cynthia's colleague ChrisM (Echinoblogger) has put up a trio of posts in her honor, about her legacy and her just having fun in her element.

Narcissia ahearnae an Ophidiasteridae sea star named in honor of Cynthia Ahearn. Photo from Echinoblog.com


Whew!! That's it for the 11th edition of Linnaeus Legacy. I've had a blast reading through the submissions and look forward to next month's edition, which will be hosted by the eloquent Kylie Sturgess at PodBlack Cat whose logo does indeed rock! You can submit your September entries to her at podblack -at- gmail -dot- com, or send them in through the BlogCarnival submission system.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Right Whale Lice


Cyamus ovalis Photo: Vicky Rowntree, University of Utah

In an earlier post, I joked (well half joked) about the need to save the whale lice, even if you don't care about the right whales. I thought today I would expand on the brief comment about the lice and their special relationship with whale and how they can actually tell us about the populations of right whales and their evolution.

Image courtesy of Mariano Sironi, Institute of Whale Conservation, Buenos Aires

In the image above you can see the characteristic white and black rough patches known as callosities on the face of a right wale. The raised dark grey bits are indeed part of the whale. Those are rough ridges that become sharper and harder. They are not really lice, but a caprellid amphipod, in other words a crustacean. Whale lice specifically are in the family Cyamidae consists of 35+ species in seven genera and are collectively known as cyamids.

On each right whale around 5000 Cyamus ovalis coat the callosities and gives them their white color is Cyamus ovalis. In the spaces between the raised callosities live around 500 C. gracilis. On adult whales approximately 2000 C. erraticus live in the genital and mammary slits. C. erraticus is highly mobile though often occupying wounds, and living in large concentrations on the heads of young calves. Of these C. gracilis is the smallest with ~6mm long adults and with the other two species measuring ~12-15mm long as adults.

Closeup of Right Whale callosity with C. ovalis. From Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance/Whale Conservation Institute

The cyamids were named "whale lice" by early whalers in reference to their own head and body lice. Mmmmm fun! While not actual lice, they behave similarly in a few key ways. Cyamids have no free swimming stage and spend their entire life on one species of whales, transferring from whale to whale through intimate contact, primarily between a mother and it's calf. They were recently used, similarly to their lice namesakes, to track the population structure and evolution of their hosts.

In 2005 a team of scientists published the results of their study of the population structure and evolution of right whales based on DNA studies of the whales' cyamids. The cyamid DNA is in some ways more informative than the whales' own DNA as the cyamids complete many generation per whale generation and the population of the cyamids, especially C. ovalis, is far greater than that of the whales, offering the researchers more mutations to track.

The team collected cyamids from globally distributed right whale strandings and used variation in the mitochondrial COI gene to analyze the population structures of both the cyamids and by inference the right whales they inhabit. The first finding was that there was no obvious population structure within ocean basins. They also found high levels of haplotype diversity but low gene differentiation suggesting a large population with high transfer rate between individual whales.

The North Atlantic and Southern Ocean populations however have apparently been fully isolated for several million years. This supports the view that the North Atlantic, Southern Ocean and North Pacific right whales have been isolated for millions of years and shouldbe considered separate species. In a gene tree for the right whale cyamids the three different nominal species clustered out as seven distinct species. C. avalis, C. gracilis and C. erraticus fall out with separate North Atlantic and Southern Ocean species which diverged approximately 6.3mya. Interestingly the Northern Pacific C. ovalis form a tight clade nested within the tree of the Southern Ocean C. ovalis suggesting that there was more recent contact those two populations than between the Northern Atlantic and Southern Ocean populations.

By studying the cyamid crustaceans Jon Seger and his team were able to provide another line of evidence that each oceanic basin population of right whales is in fact a distinct species. They also found four new species of right whale cyamids and that the number of right whales in each basin was higher than originally estimated for pre-commercial whaling populations.

Classification of the nominal species Cyamus ovalis:
Kingdom
Animalia

Phylum
Arthropoda

Subphylum
Crustacea

Class
Malacostraca

Order
Amphipoda

Infaorder
Caprellida

Family
Cyamidae

Genus
Cyamus

Species
Cyamus ovalis



References:
Kaliszewska et al. (2005). Population histories of right whales (Cetacea: Eubalaena) inferred from mitochondrial sequence diversities and divergences of their whale lice (Amphipoda: Cyamus) Molecular Ecology, 14 (11), 3439-3456 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02664.x

Ug. You. Go. Boneyard. Ug. NOW!

Zach at When Pigs Fly Returns has the latest edition of the paleo-carnival, The Boneyard!

Cycleryon sp., image from FossilMall

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Slow Down - Think of the Invert Children!!

Jeff at The New Blue is trying to get the word about the comment period for the Final Environmental Impact Statement of the Ship Strike Reduction rule. Jeff is a genuine friend of the inverts and believe it or not this is an important issue for inverts and invert lovers!

The Final Environmental Impact Statement is finally available for comment. This document outlines and assesses the alternatives to the proposed rule (10 knots per hour, inside 20 nautical miles (nm) for ships over 65') to protect critically endangered whale populations from ship strikes. This proposed rule and the process to get it approved has been mired by the Vice President and certain interest groups such that a process which normally requires 90 days has dragged out to 540 days and a significant weakening of the rule from a 30nm zone to the currently proposed 20 nm zone.


Right whale researcher Amy Knowlton is asking for some help. She needs 10-15 minutes of our time. She has put together a great page at NEAQ about the proposed rule, why it is needed and the process to date. It is a quick but good read on the subject. Please, go take a look at it, then become part of the process by commenting on the proposed rulings.

So how is this invert related?
Easy... the whale lice. There are three distinct species of whale lice which are found only on right whales of the North Atlantic. These small crustaceans do not have a free swimming stage, but rather spread from whale to whale through intimate contact, mostly from a mother to her calf. The whale lice then live their entire lives on the whales, multiple generations living in a very unique habitat in select areas on the whales. Protection for the whales means protection for these wonderful invertebrates. Each whale carries somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 of these whale riders.

Of course for me, there is the "Think of the children" too. I was fortunate enough to be aboard a NOAA research vessel in the Gulf of Maine when we came across a small group of right whales. Their distinctive blow is unmistakable. I was unable to get any pictures, but it was one heck of way to have your 6am coffee! I want my son to be able to have that experience in the not too distant future. I know he does too. He even wants to help collect whale poop to help out.

So if not for the cetaceans, do it for the crustaceans! Go read and send a comment to shipstrike [dot] eis [at] noaa [dot] gov for the generations of unique inverts that depend on the whales for everything. As Jeff, says it sure wouldn't hurt to mention a preference for the original 30 nm zone.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Carnival of the Blue #16

Over at The Saipan Blog. Excellent Collection of ocean-related articles. Learn about the proposed Mariana Trench National Monument and how Bush supports it! Kudos to Angelo for this edition of the Carnival of the Blue and all his hard work promoting the creation of the monument.

Happy Labour Day!

I'll refer you to Black Commentator's Labour Day message from the decider and chief hawk.

Thanks Dominique!