Nature Blog Network

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Insect Style

Happy Holidays everyone! Its been great having you all as readers and participators in this blog for the 2nd year! Enjoy this short stop-motion video of an Insect Christmas by Vladislav Starevich. As the NC State Insect Museum notes, beware of the dubious taxonomy and just be amused by somersaulting insects.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Set your Inner Squid Free

A new invertebrate interactive game, I guess it's a game, sorta like Tamagotchi are a game, or are they?

Anyway, better than any tamawhatever, now you can design your own squid and set them free into the waters around New Zealand to hunt toothfish and grow. Check back in on them every once in a while and see how they grow. Its a wonderful addition to Te Papa Colossal Squid pages.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Cephalopodmas

To all our friends, and friends of inverts everywhere, we'd like to wish you a Merry Cephalopodmass and Happy Holothuridays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Te Papa now serving...

Colossal squid –

(Hat tip to DSN)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vert vs. Rubber Invert - Hey, get out!

Hey, get out!, originally uploaded by eclectic echoes.

This was taken at the Mystic Aquarium around Halloween during the SeaScare festivities. The African Penguins were creating paintings for a raffle and in between sessions they occasionally interacted with the giant tarantula in their playroom.

I am posting this as a bit of a present to Kevin, who has an odd, some might even allow it is an un-natural, love for penguins. It also serves as a bridge to mention that our favorite Aquarium blogger Jeff Ives brings us a new blog: The Rockhopper Penguin Expedition Blog. Kevin is going to be in penguin heaven what with all the photos and cool video from the South American colonies of rockhoppers.

As a side note, I really do get into the expedition blogging, especially when they connect to the everyday activities as well as the major science activities. It really helps connect me to the sense of discovery and adventure. Does that make sense?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Araneae Anon

Quick survey of the twangs on my web, some invert, some not so much...

Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice & Sunsets is back with a wonderful video of spider chemical substance reactions.

Karen James has a great discussion of science heroes and humanity vs deification, some great recipes, Newton's fingernails, and Galileo's finger over at The Beagle Project.

Miriam has posted a most psychedelic image of one of the most awesome structures in the world... the radula!

Emmet Duffy at the Natural Patriot has a review of the recent open access PNAS paper tracing the source of that last fast food meal giving great support to the notion to eat local. Can't wait to give a pdf of that paper (and the review) to my Econ prof, who claims to eat $1 menu fast food twice a day, every day extolling it's excellent value. (Of course I may take the...ahem....spineless route and give them to him after grades post instead of before the final tomorrow night.)

The final twang comes from the Wild Shores of Singapore where RIA posted a good intro to the ScienceNow piece on deep sea squid sex, complete with sperm packets everywhere... even lodged in a human throat!

Time to cram for Calc now....

Monday, December 8, 2008

Invert Credit

Kevin just sent me an email about a blogger both of us have followed for some time - dalantech of the No Cropping Zone - a very talented macro photographer. (I love his deconstructions!)

December Drone by *dalantech

In his latest post he has offered that he often will license his insect images for credit only, especially for a science or education professional. As he says it works for him to get the publicity and for the professional to get some wonderfully high quality images.

If you need good insect macro photography for your next pub or presentation give him a once over. Some excellent material in his galleries.

Now to get some CC licensed mollusc photos...f course I'd rather take them myself, but no time... (and few animals)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Carnival of the Blue #19

Check out the latest Carnival of the Blue up at the fabulous WaterNotes! Lots of great writing from our ocean blogging colleagues.

Invert vs. Vert - Nom,Nom,Nom edition

Chain Dogfish eggs! Nom, Nom, Nom!
Go get your own egg!, originally uploaded by eclectic echoes.

Nothing like a bit of chain dogfish egg / embryo for breakfast!

Actually the cut away section of outer casing was protected by a securely wrapped piece of parafilm, so I guess no Nom,Nom,Nom'ing going on...

But I wonder, there was that recent research about eating preference in cuttlefish appetites being shaped by what they saw through their egg membrane...
Will this chain dogfish ignore squid and only go after crustaceans?

Or is this the equivalent of the nightmare about your food eating you, you know the one where you run into a 2 meter tall steak knife wielding walking talking squid as you turn the corner and all he keeps repeating is ... what you never had that dream?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coral Bones

In case you missed the big news, Peter from Deep Sea News has the discoverer's take on the publishing of the paper on "his coral." It is a beautiful specimen to say the least!

My Acuroscope

The Southern Fried Scientist has created the Acuroscope based on "the much more chaotic and unpredictable movements of terrestrial bodies, careening through life and influencing those around them." It is proven to be "at least as accurate, and probably more so, as conventional horoscopes." Here is mine:

Benign Tumors (March 19 – April 11) – Beards are one of the best things in the world. You more than likely have one. The great beard-way has powerful influence over everyone in the world, especially yours. It is both the number of quality of beards in my immediate area that control your fate. However, unlike beards, which always get checked out, benign tumors rarely do, so in social situations you need to make the first move. Of course, no one is ever happy to see you but always happy to find out you’re harmless.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Random Invert Picture - Nembrotha aurea

The photographer id's it as Nembrotha purpureolineata but the orange dorsal patch looks to me more like it is Nembrotha aurea as described in

Marta Pola, J. Lucas Cervera, Terrence M. Gosliner (2008). Revision of the Indo-Pacific genus Nembrotha (Nudibranchia: Dorididae: Polyceridae), with a description of two new species Scientia Marina, 72 (1) DOI: 10.3989/scimar.2008.72n1145

Monday, December 1, 2008

5 Things Redux

First that "scallywag" Brian from Laelaps tagged Kevin with a meme, and then what does he do? He nails me with it! And me without my meme vaccinations up to date! If Kevin will forgive me, I'm going to use his entry as a template:

5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago

  • As of Dec 15th this year marks 10 years ago I was getting laid off from Micron Electronics in Nampa, Idaho, where I was a Support Engineer (the people who try and figure out what's going on when there are issues and develop a reliable fix for it) and Web Designer.
  • Enrolling at Boise State University (one of the best things I've ever done!)
  • Doing video production/animation for the local market and teaching 3D animation
  • Moving from a house with a big garage to a 2 bedroom apartment and a big storage unit!
  • Smoking about 1 pack of cigarettes a day
5 Things On My To-Do List Today
  • Finish one of three paper rewrites due by the end of the week
  • Clean up office (train self to pick up "toys"... futile I know...)
  • Email one professor for grad school position
  • Write personal statement for one grad school
  • Help Johann create one more batch of scientist trading cards
5 Snacks I Love
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Almonds
  • dried blueberries
  • Orange or Grapefruit
  • Grandma's white chocolate covered pretzels (which Tammy now makes so well!)
5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire
  • Pay off all our debts
  • Buy a house and some undeveloped leave undeveloped.
  • Buy a rebreather and HD underwater video rig
  • Let Tammy go to graduate school and put away enough that Johann can go to college and if he wants grad school without having to worry about funding
  • Conrtibute to Kevin's scholarship
5 Places I've lived
  • Bitburg, Germany
  • Lompoc, CA
  • Mesa, Pheonix and Sierra Vista, AZ
  • Boise, ID
  • Austin, TX
5 Jobs I've Had
  • Marine Science Department Technology Support
  • Animator & Multimedia Production Artist
  • IT Technician
  • Computer Support Engineer and Multimedia Web Developer
  • Satellite and Microwave Radio Communications specialist

Ok, so now I get to 5 other people?

  • Kevin already tagged Karen, but let's see where Peter was 10 years before he live blogged boat shows with friends of millionaires, I think we know what he would do with a a cool Million. What IS his favorite snack?
  • Was Miriam at the Oysters Garter already wearing such trend setting and cool invert clothing as a squid hat??? With the million she could afford them all easily. I hope Oysters are on her favorite snack list!
  • Was Mark at Blogfish stalking sustainable fishing 10 years ago? Would the million dollars prevent him from diving under his mistresses covers every chance he gets?
  • Did the Beach Chair Scientist feel the pull of the ocean 10 years ago? Would we see an upgraded chair with the million dollars, maybe something with solar powered icebox, GPS and real time satellite feed of marine forecasting and visual data sets? What is the best beach chair snack?
  • Was the Brine Queen watching super cute sea horses 10 years ago? Does she have a new marine bio geek acquisition to pickup today?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

5 Things Meme

Those scallywags, Brian from Laelaps and Adrian from Evolving Complexity, have tagged me with the 5 things meme. Wow, its been ages since those gosh darn memes have been traveling around. I swore we exhausted them out last year, but like a nasty infection you didn't quite clean out well enough, its come back. Here it goes!

5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago

  • Line cook at Applebee's in Davenport, IA
  • Breaking off an engagement (one of the best things I've ever done!)
  • Dropped out of community college
  • Traveled to Australia and New Zealand
  • Smoking 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day
5 Things On My To-Do List Today
  • Write some more on my Masters thesis (yes it is still isn't quite finished yet...)
  • Clean up living room (train kids to pick up toys... futile I know...)
  • Read on microsatellite optimization
  • Write some blog posts
  • Figure out how to increase resolution of line drawings for a publication that held back because the resolution of the images was too low :(
5 Snacks I Love
  • Sun chips!!
  • Cashew and raisin mix
  • Cookies
  • Bananas
  • Goldfish crackers
5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire
  • Buy a house with lots of land, and a boat of course
  • Pay off all my debts and brothers' debts and buy my parents a nice house near us
  • Invest a large enough portion that we could live comfortably off the interest
  • Put enough way for my kids to get the best possible education and not have to worry about working through school like I did
  • Start a scholarship for poor people to attend college
5 Places I've lived
  • State College, PA
  • Davis, Monterey, San Jose and Berkeley, CA
  • Mesa, AZ
  • Bettendorf, IA
  • Moline, IL
5 Jobs I've Had
  • Graduate student research and teaching assistant
  • Academic Support Services tutor (basic arithmetic to calculus)
  • Supervisor at an upscale local cafe
  • Audio engineer and studio musician
  • Line cook, baker and/or kitchen manager for several restaurants
Ok, so I will tag my coblogger Eric, Rick, Karen, the Southern Fried Scientist, and EchinoChris.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Help! My squid shrank!

Ok, finally got all that writing stuff done so I can connect to the net again. Jack in and what do I find?

Almost every way of preserving it makes it shrink!

The Te Papa staff are counting down the days to their new exhibit of the colossal squid:

Of course in the original press surrounding the capture of the squid, it was mentioned by many sources that the squid was thought to have a total length in excess of 6 metes and possibly as long as 8m. When it was dissected and preserved, it measured out at 4.2 meters. The museum researchers and staff decided to see if there was a cause for the discrepancy and found that the original, unpreserved flaccid length was probably about 6 meters. Of course since squid have no bones and extremely elastic tissues, when it was alive and under the proper stimulation the squid may have exceeded 8m in length.

I only wish there was a way for me to get down to NZ over the break. Hmmm... wait there is a symposium on deep sea coral in NZ next week... maybe Professor A. would take me with him...I can ride in the suitcase for deep sea coral associate ecology and Te Papa... Passport's ready and up to date...besides, I wanted to check out grad school opportunities down there. Hmmm....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Starvation is the Thread That Binds Amoebas Together

ResearchBlogging.orgWhen the going gets tough, the starved huddle together en masse. You might expect this behavior from musk oxen, schools of fish or even armies of anemones. New research published in the open access journal PLoS Biology demonstrates that our spineless protistan cousins, the amoeba, seek out genetically similar relatives when they are under stress. They aggregate together to form a fruiting body which will carry their genetic information safely on when better days arrive. This happens at an expense though. Nearly 20% of individual amoebas will perish in this effort "altruistically" giving their all for their cousins. The spores of the fruiting body are hardy and will go on carrying the amoebas' genetic heritage, while some cells will die making the stalk that lifts the fruiting body off of the ground. The higher the fruiting body the more likely and farther it will be dispersed.

Figure 4: Sorting of Strains during Multicellular Development. Cells expressing either GFP or DsRed were mixed at equal proportions and allowed to develop on agar plates. Pictures were taken at the indicated developmental time points and the merged image of the two fluorophores is shown. (A) A mix of the genetically dissimilar strains AX4-DsRed and QS44-GFP shows increased segregation with time. (B) A mix of the genetically identical strains AX4-DsRed and AX4-GFP shows no segregation.

There are several interesting ramifications from this study. The amoebas must be able to detect similar genotypes. Additionally, this demonstrates an important historical point in organismal evolution. The beginnings of multicellularity. One direct hypothesis generated or supported by this is that multicellularity evolved out of a need to protect genetic information during stressful times, such as starvation. Instead of every individual slowly dying off they band together for a final push to ensure the survival of the genes.

Elizabeth A. Ostrowski, Mariko Katoh, Gad Shaulsky, David C. Queller, Joan E. Strassmann (2008). Kin Discrimination Increases with Genetic Distance in a Social Amoeba PLoS Biology, 6 (11) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060287

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Insects Day In Court

In the case of the insects vs. the trucks, it looks like the insects finally get their day in court. In England, a group called Buglife – an invertebrate conservation group – has taken developers of a truck park and warehouse to court to save some 1300 species of invertebrates, including 900 that are listed as nationally important by Britain. The site of the construction, West Thurrock Marshes in Essex, is sensitive habitat and home to one of England's most diverse populations of invertebrates.

Good luck Inverts!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Decompressing after tests, I stumbled across the Archipelagos blog where an international group of scientists, researchers, and volunteers work together to study and conserve resources in the Aegean. The organization is using the blog as a major component of their outreach and news dissemination.

The organization's main site gives a strong clue to what is found in the blog... conservation, research, outreach and field courses spread across 4 research stations and 2 research bases through the Aegean Sea.

The blog has notes from the research teams and volunteers about the various projects that are going on and their adventures. A sampling of November postings – each by a different trainee researcher – includes diurnal changes in the invertebrate community off Faros, issues surrounding solid waste disposal and hypocrisy, habitat mapping, a forest fire, beaches as ash trays, and graphic design for the environment.

The last one, a posting by a designer with a Bsc Product Design and Innovation degree, really caught my eye as it is not what I expect to see on an environmental or science blog – talking about the design projects for this NGO. Unfortunately design of outreach materials is often – though certainly not always – an afterthought. Having pursued design at BSU before life got in the way, I want to use design in my career going forward, so I love seeing design projects and concerns being discussed in connection to science and an NGO. I was especially pleased to discover that Archipelagos offers a 10 day course on Marine Scientific Illustration and Underwater Photography. Pretty cool.

I could easily see spending a few months out there with this group. Seeing as my schedule is a little bit cramped right now though, I'll have to settle for snatching a few minutes every couple days to spend there virtually.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just Sayin'

It's beautiful, sunny, 75°F (24°C). The trees are lush and green as the calm water gently reflects the sunshine. A nice warm breeze coming in through the open screen door. This is perhaps the nicest November I have ever been witnessed to. Oh, and there was a butterfly outside my window! In Mid-Novemeber! I ain't leaving North Carolina... EVAH!

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Inverts from Boston

Things have been even more quiet at The New Blue than here for the past month or so, but it turns out there is no cause for alarm as it seems that Jives has been just a wee bit busy!

He announced today on the blog that a new feature has been rolled out at the New England Aquarium – a virtual aquarium tour they call the NEAQ Mobile Tour. It's available as 16 videos at the NEAQ site or as an iTunes download (video or audio tours)! Take the Aquarium Tour on your iPod as your virtual guide at the Aquarium... cool!

My favorite "chapters" of course are the Jellies, the Giant Pacific Octopus and the whale, I mean the Northern Right Whales.

Be sure to check them all out and give Jives a bit of feedback!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Antarctic Inverts in Boston

How many invert species do you see?

This is a detail from this much larger, gorgeous photo from Antarctica that ran as a feature on this past weekend. The series of 32 images are awe inspiring even if there is only the one invert filled image:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Palau Flatworm in HD is a great resource for some high-def invert video.
This video below is a small, re-sized sample of a really nice longer 720p video from one of the Japanese ships sunk at Palau. Many inverts in the video, but the marine flatworm, coolest of the Platyhelminthes (to my untrained eye, I believe it is Maritigrella crozierae) is my favorite from the whole clip. (The narrator speaks of two of them, in a bit of invert porn, but I only see one in the video... is it just me?)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Linnaeus' Legacy Up

At the Life Photo Meme! Go check out all the taxonomic goodness.

Vote for Brian for the Student Blogging Scholarship!

My good friend, science blogger comrade and all around awesome palaeo-blogger is in the final 20 for the 2008 Student Blogging Scholarships If he wins he gets $10K to pay for his last semester in school and help him out with student loans. So head over right now to the 2008 Student Blogging Scholarship and vote for Brian Switek!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Invert Playground

The whiteboard from the undergrad lounge in the marine science building at UCONN Avery Point....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

YES WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

This will be getting a lot of play while I count bacterial colonies today!! (hat tip to Marky Mark)

Can I just say w00t1!!!!!!!11!!!11!!!!!11


Seriously though, did anyone else get watery-eyed during PRESIDENT-ELECT Obama's acceptance speech? I nearly balled out with tears of joy. Linda and I had to run outside in the run the yell out a big w00t!!! so we didn't wake the kids. I have never been this proud to be an american. I feel a new train a comin'. Its a new dawn. I can once again be proud for my country this moment. THIS IS FRIKKIN LANDSLIDE!! In case you didn't notice.

I can't wait to see North Carolina, Indiana and Montana filled in blue after its all said and done. It'll look even more purdy then.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Carnival of Evolution #5

There was an astonishing amount of entries to this edition of the Carnival of Evolution. I can tell this one is here to stay. The fifth edition promises to continue the high quality of submissions we have seen thus far. A real potpourri of evolution from paleobiology to development, education to speculation.

Evolution Education
My friend, Peter Buckland, a graduate student in educational theory at Penn State studying the controversy of evolution in the classroom recently gave what was likely a superb talk to a crowd of nearly 100 people. Unfortunately, he couldn't have given his talk 2 months ago while I was still in residency in the Happy Valley. He writes a 2-part post based on his talk's content called “Thou Shall Not Inhibit Academic Freedom: The Evolution of Anti-Evolutionism.” Part 1 deals with some background while part 2 is a nice reflection on some of the finer concerns of evolution education in the US.
"Now, we can talk about controversies on the tree of life. How closely related are we to Neanderthals? That’s a great question in science. The question is not “Are we related to Neanderthals?” Biologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists have skirmishes over portions of the tree of life. None of them argue that they are on it.

But that’s not what Explore Evolution would have us believe. They want to foist a particular notion, the “Orchard of Life” on high school students. No one in biology talks about the orchard of life..."
Drinking deep from the literature, Aydin of the Snail's Tales discusses a quote from a 1915 text:
"Had the biologists indeed abandoned the evolutionary theory at the turn of the 20th century, evolutionary explanations of biological phenomena would by now be an almost-forgotten chapter in the annals of biology."
Human Evolution at a Stand-Still, or Not
Steve Jones had a little something to say about human evolution this month. Apparently, selection no longer acts upon us. Several bloggers had a few things to say about Jones' data and conclusions. For instance, Ben from the group blog Grown Ass People notes that
"these arguments may seem convincing to anyone who hasn't taken intro biology, but any undergrad worth their auto-pipette should be able to see right through Professor Jones' nonsense."
Transitioning to a Species Near You
Glen at the Behe Fails Weblog exclaims "There's a reason why all vertebrate wings are modified legs of their terretrial ancestor"!
"Yet we are to believe that a “designer” capable of creating extremely complex systems–of the kind that humans cannot presently create–went back again and again to legs in order to design vertebrate wings. Which is just as evolution predicts, in the tetrapod context. Would anybody ever expect that of an alien?"
Grrl Scientist discusses new research on everyone's favorite evolutionary transition fossil, Tiktaalik!
"The new study reminds us that the gradual transition from aquatic to terrestrial lifestyles required much more than the evolution of limbs"
Evolution and Development
Alvaro at Sharp Brains has an extensive interview with Dr. Michael Posner on his research on the evolution and development of self-regulation.
"What is exciting these days is that progress in neuroimaging and in genetics make it possible to think about self-regulation in terms of specific brain-based networks."
Nagraj, one of the Hoxful Monsters, discusses new research on the origin and evolution of microRNA's in animals.
"Micro RNAs present in plants and algae have a different gene structure, biogenesis and targeting properties from those of animals, and these miRNAs are not found in fungi. Based on the above facts it's generally considered that miRNAs in plants and animals had independent origin."
Who Needs so much O2 Anyways?
Irradiatus from Biochemical Soul discusses an awesome new paper from the awesome Open Access Journal PLoS ONE where researchers evolved low O2 tolerance in the lab.
"Personally, I think one of the most amazing aspects of this study was just how quickly these flies evolved to survive and develop perpetually in severely low oxygen conditions. In only 32 generations the flies were able to live in oxygen conditions completely lethal to normal flies."
Semantics in Evolution
The Urban Scientist posts on the uses of the words heritable, inherited and genetic in teaching and the press:
"Heritability deals with the likelihood or probability of traits running in families. But here is the catch: something can be heritable due to genetics or environment. In this case the environment includes culture or habits and behaviors that you experience and accept as a normal and everyday. Everything that shared among related individuals isn’t necessarily because they share the same genes."
The Future of Evolution is Fun!
What got you really interested in evolution? One of the more interesting questions is how can you predict phenotypes. What will creatures look like in the future? Blog n00b Christie Lynn's submission from Observations of a Nerd is the ultimate in geeky barroom debate. Make sure you add her to your RSS feeds!
"The fun of evolution isn't in looking back - it's in looking forward. So let's take just one moment to release a barrel of monkeys into evolution and the future we're so upset about. Instead of the glass being half-empty, it's merely awaiting the next set of species to fill it."

And check out the 100+ Incredible Open Courseware Resources for Science Geeks which has some software available for teaching and modeling evolution. That is all for this edition be sure to keep posted the mother ship for information about upcoming carnivals! The 6th edition will be held at Life Before Death on November 15th. Make sure you get your submissions in soon!

Spider Substance Abuse

Watch Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on Spider Webs in Funny Videos  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Zombie Crickets!

Note: It is a translation. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Say it ain't so! What a horrible nightmare you sent me Eelke!

I vow in front of all 6 of my readers right now that I will NOT forget to vote for Obama on Nov. 4th. Mark my word. You can trust me, I have a beard.

Work with an Invert! - Bivalve Postdoc

*Bivalve anatomy & systematics postdoc*

A postdoctoral position is available for a full-time postdoctoral researcher in the Bivalve Tree-of-Life project. For project information, please see

Initial appointment for this Field Museum (Chicago)-based term position is made for 12 months, with opportunity for performance-based renewal for up to three additional years. Starting salary is $40,000.

Primary focus of the position will be to investigate gill and labial palp morphology across the Bivalvia, using various techniques including anatomical dissections, histology, electron microscopy, 3-D computer-assisted reconstructions, as well as field observations on living animals. In addition, the postdoc will participate in the collections management aspects of the BivAToL project, and will be part of larger group efforts such as field collecting and phylogenetic analyses. Opportunity will exist for "first-authored" project development as well as for exposure to additional (e.g., molecular) techniques.

The candidate should have the following proven attributes:
● PhD in relevant area
● Experience in at least some of the mentioned techniques and approaches
● Marine invertebrate background; with molluscan expertise preferred
● Strong interest in comparative and functional morphology
● Capacity to work in a team as well as independently
● Availability in early 2009

Interested candidates should send a CV, statement of research interests, and contact information for three references via email (pdf) to Rüdiger Bieler (rbieler at fieldmuseum dot org).

Evaluation of applications will begin on November 1 and continue until a suitable candidate is found. Earliest starting date will be in January 2009.

Send in Carnival of Evolution Submissions

The Other 95% is hosting the next Carnival of Evolution on Saturday, November 1. Put links in the comments to anything you read relating to evolution for my consideration.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bees Pollinating Brazilian Orchid

I love this video of Euglossine bees pollinating the brazilian orchid, Catasetum macrocarpum.

I highly recommend you check out Alex Popovkin's flickr account "A Russian in Brazil", especially to see the finished product of the bees hard work!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fruit Fly Research is Wastful Spending?

Apparently, fruit fly research is wasteful spending, along the lines of 3 million Bear "paternity testing" and 3 million dollar "overhead projectors". That sucks for the research being done on autism using the fruit fly model. I wonder if Palin knows anything autism?

UPDATE: Bjorn Brembs takes offense to the attack on his research area. He basically lays the smack-down (not that that is hard to do or anything).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Parasitic Mind Control in Ants

Its just wrong! Poor ants...

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Sticky Situation, originally uploaded by fiznatty.

For this week's Life Photo, an organism that has gotten quite a bit of press today, but that I fear will only exacerbate the common misunderstanding of it's kind that is prevalent in our society. Above is a beautiful golden silk orb weaver spider of the Genus Nephila. These spiders can grow to be pretty large (for the Nephila clavipes above, up to 40mm long) and love to spin (their genus name means spin lover) beautiful webs often with reinforcement threads in them that zig-zag back and forth looking a bit like a runway for small flying insects to follow to the center. As with many spiders they are not aggressive towards humans and their venom is not toxic. Orb weavers are pan tropical with N. clavipes, reaching into the southern U.S. Heck I really wish we could find them here in Connecticut. Maybe in another 25-30 years.

So what is the news that may exacerbate the misunderstanding of this species?

Welll, it seems that at least one of the Nephila species wanted to see the invert vs. vert series brought back and figured the best way was to show how an real invert can take on a much larger vertebrate:

Of course this is getting much play across the net, most of it remarkably good, but some reactions of fear and loathing.

Classification for the orb weaving spiders


Arthropoda (crustaceans, insects, spiders & related)



Araneae (Spiders)

Araneidae (orbweavers)


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bug enthusiasts for Obama button

Hat tip to Michael Barton, FCD

Wolf's Den

For those who claimed we were exceptionally biased in our Invert vs. Vert wars...this one comes from one of my favorite fish ecologists...

Wolffish eating a sea urchin from CLF (credit: Jonathan Bird) on Vimeo.

Oh, the horror. This poor echinoderm managed to wander right in front of the wolf's den. Then again, it is a worthy sacrifice, considering the current state of the wolffish. That's it, yeah, the urchin was doing it's part to save the wolffish!

I'll have to add the score in later... I gotta run, late for class! In the mean time enjoy the other Wolffish videos from CLF, including another invert vs. vert.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vote Oysters Garter

Miriam at the Oysters Garter needs a little invert help. Her beautiful short play is a finalist in a competition, but the competition is tough and one of the competitors is using an eight year old to play the cute card. At stake are four dozen farmed oysters which Miriam and Eric plan to share with a handful of poor graduate students (is there any other kind?).

So check out the options, then do the right spineless thing and vote for Oysters Garter. Remember, a vote for Miriam means a high quality meal for half dozen grad students and $80 towards the Nature Conservancy’s Olympia Oyster restoration project. Just think of the incredible progress they will be able to make on their theses with such a high quality food in their bellies!

Of course I think that the only way to have four dozen oysters is raw with Tabasco or lemon juice. Or fish sauce, lime and chili peppers!

How Many Crickets Does It Take to Decimate a Head of Lettuce in One Hour?


40 000 Bugs Eat a Whole Head of Lettuce in One Hour - video powered by Metacafe

H/t Craig.

From artour_a at flickr.

Originally uploaded by artour_a

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kay Hagan Pals Around with Atheists

Apparently its really bad to associate with atheists. This video was produced with the aim of exposing North Carolina senate candidate as a supporter of the godless. "Heaven forbid" she actually does not see godless americans as a threat and take every opportunity slander them. This is just so ridiculous and offensive. Its produced in such a slimy way to mislead and direct voters to a false argument of guilt by association. I think it shows she is open minded and welcoming to all philosophies. It is a rare individual in politics to acknowledge the existence of the "nones".

Work with an Invert's Shells in Ireland

The Letterkenny Institute of Technology in County Donegal, Ireland is looking to fill a biochemistry postdoc position screening and analyzing bioactive compounds from crustacean shells. If you have a Ph.D. in a related field and love screening bio compounds, chromatography and protein isolation, check out the postion at or email the Project Manager, Dr. W. Brück at wolfram dot bruck at lyit dot ie.

Closing date is November 7th.

Small World Awards

Nikon has declared the winners of the 2008 Small World Photomicrogaphy Competition. The winner was this image of filaments within diatoms shot through polarizing filters by retired microsopist Michael Stringer.

PHOTOS: Best Microscopic Photos of 2008 Announced

All my favorites are among the invertebrate entries of course:

Sergestes larva (deep-water decapod crustacean)Chrysolina fastuosa (Micro leaf beetle) on a pin headOrchestia gammarella (sand hopper)Calanoid copepods (zooplankton)Mitraria larva of Owenia fusiformis (a tubeworm)Glossina sp. (tsetse fly head)Spirocamallanus sp. nematodeRadiolarians, fossil shells

And the Thinning soap film in the Popular Vote Contest.

While you're at the Small World site, check out the "Identify the Image Challenge"

Today I managed 4 of 5, earning  a rank of Magnification Master! But each day is a different set of images...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Freshwater Ostracod

Freshwater Ostracod, originally uploaded by eclectic echoes.

Time for an ostracod portrait! This is one of around a hundred ostracod (I believe they are of family Podocopida) that were saved from one a small tank that we tore down this week. I had to make sure we saved a few of them to seed the remaining tank – which I have never seen even a single ostracod in (until now!)

These particular ostracod have a very cyclical lifestyle in the tank which makes me wonder if they might have originated in vernal pools. We see the ostracod predominantly from September through June, when hundreds can be counted in very short order. In July and August I only a small handful can be found, even allowing far more time.

You can find out more about ostracods including their bioluminescent dances and their connection to the Nobel Prize, (truly fascinating buggers, very important to paleontology too) at:

The Other 95% - Ostracod Posts
Evolutionary Novelties - The OstraBlog Posts

As a side note, I think I have finally got a rig for taking pictures through he scope figured out. Actually it's not a rig yet, but now at least I can fabricate a mount so I can have the camera securely connected to the scope.







Drink the Good Coffee

Coffee is something that is sacred to me. I value heavily the flavor, robustness and quality of craft roasted beans. I read Coffee and Conservation regularly because it provides me news on the small coffee growers that are trying to grow their coffee crops in sustainable ways. Coffee plantations planted under shade trees have a direct ecological benefit to many tropical fauna and flora, including rare or endangered butterflies and birds. Large corporations that grow coffee beans on a large scale clear the land for large plantations and make the habitat unfavorable to forest fauna. This reduces soil quality very quickly. Bean flavor is related to soil quality which is one reason that Folgers, Maxwell, etc. beans lack the key characteristics of a really good coffee that you may buy at a coffee house. The other reason is that the "robusta" bean variety has been heavily engineered to be mild for the average american palate. So much so that I feel as if I am just drinking hot dirty water.

But there is a human cost to buying coffee from these large multinational corporations. It increases poverty and prevents farmers from making beyond 5-10% profit on the beans. Coffee and Conservation has a nice article up today that lays out the case with several important link embedded in the article. I highly recommend bookmarking the website and flipping through its webpages!

Can switching the coffee I drink really help?

The U.S. is one of the world's largest coffee consumers. We can make a difference. Quit supporting the poverty and environmental destruction that cheap coffee from these large multinationals perpetuates.

Good coffee for which a fair price is paid is not too expensive for most Americans. In fact, 45% of Folgers and Maxwell House purchasers have incomes greater than $50,000 a year. Even coffee that costs $15 a pound works out to well under a dollar a cup, tastes great, helps preserve biodiversity, and provides a decent living for coffee farmers.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tangled Bank and Carnival of Evolution

Kristjan Wager (no relation to Pascal) has the 116th Tangled Bank collection online at Pro-Science!

Mike Haubrich also has the 4th edition of the Carnival of Evolution up at Clashing Culture. I'll be hosting the next edition of the Carnival of Evolution here on November 1st. Send me your submissions through the blog carnival submission form or leave the links in the comments!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Todd Oakley, writer of the wonderful OstraBlog series at Evolutionary Novelties, put up a post in which he invited all of us to "Tawk amongst yah-selves." He offered up two topics for discussion, one for for the bar scene, the other more appropriate for all other social environments – Why has bioluminescence evolved SO many times in the marine environment, but almost never in freshwater environments? Be sure to head over and join in the Tawk.

After leaving a quick comment I decided I could spare 10 minutes or so for some a quick journal search (is that really possible?) I found a couple of interesting abstracts, but one of the most intriguing paper is....not available through my institution.
If anyone has access to the following paper please let me know at eric.heupel at gmail or at eric.heupel at uconn dot edu...

Seliger, H.H. (2008) The Origin of Bioluminescence. Photochemistry and Photobiology 21, 355-361(1975). DOI:10.1111/j.1751-1097.1975.tb06684.x

Praxis #3

Praxis, the blog carnival about "scientific life", has landed here at The Other 95%. Welcome and make sure you look around at the work of my spineless co-blogger Eric and myself. The last edition was held at Life v. 3.0. Make sure you submit to Praxis #4 to be held at The Lay Scientist. Go ahead and host one yourself as well! Now on to the carnival.

Open Access Day and 5 Years of PLoS!!!
It was Open Access Day yesterday which (nearly) coincided with the 5th year anniversary of PLoS on October 13. PLoS asked "Why does open access matter to you". Check out all the replies aggregated in the Synchroblogging Competition post!

Difficulties of Being a Scientist
KH at Lecturer Notes ponders junior faculty naivete. Head over there to remind KH that making mistakes is part of the learning process!

The Rock Doctor at Life v. 3.0 has a post up describing her thoughts on being different from her friends. Science often takes people down an interesting path that neither social circumstances, religion or personaly/family history can control. You either succumb to the mold or let the journey carry you onward.

Bill at Open Reading Frame reminds everyone that no goes into science to get rich by plotting monthly salary versus experience. The results? Go there and see his analysis!

Searching for a job is no easy task. We all have our ideals. A nice salary, maybe able to purchase that first home, live in a nice area with plenty of weekend adventure opportunities and culture. But the job we want isn't always there or isn't always yours. That is why Physioprof over at Drugmonkey reminds us to cast a wide net when job hunting!

Is Biology Chemistry?
Bora from A Blog Around the Clock waxes poetic on Green Fluorescence Protein winning the Nobel prize in Chemistry. For some reason he seems to think the "nobel" jellyfish isn't deserving of the prize. Oh, I guess some people got the prize not the jelly. My bad. But he has several comments on what discerns Medicine/Physiology from Chemistry. The line is often blurred in the awarding of the Nobel Prizes. The don't join the bandwagon rant resonates with me for sure!

Abel Pharmboy at Terra Sigillata also weighs on the GFP Nobel issue and concludes that "funding agencies [need] to support a broad range of chemical and biological research". Find out why at Terra Sigillata!

Revolutionizing Peer Review
Cameron Neylon at Science in the Open offers up a few ideas about bringing peer review into the 21st century. This includes taking into account online articles (such as blog posts), wiki-style reviewing, open reviewing, aggregation after review, and much much more. Be sure to follow the excellent comment thread. Cameron also offers up his personal view of open science. If you are not a "believer" in open access and open science after this post (the 1st in a series), then there is no hope for you or you must work for "that one". Superbly done.

Bjorn Brembs also puts out an excellent post about transparent peer review, but has a different take on it from Cameron. It starts with a discussion forum, ends with a journal publication. But it is what happens between those two stages that is important.

Do it for the Children?
Janet Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science supports the progress of women in science but asks a very important question of a german initiative. Should women with kids get special treatment for scholarships? There are lots of underlying assumptions with this, be sure to read through the comment thread as well. Zuska also weighs in with her thoughts.

Fight the Power!
Sick of Thomson-ISI or just want an open source alternative to EndNote? After hearing about Thomson Reuter's bogus lawsuit against George Mason University, where the open source referencing software Zotero was made by Dr. Daniel Cohen, for violating its license agreement and destroying the EndNote customer base (i.e. reverse engineering the .ens file format), I decided to give Zotero a whirl. It rocks and it integrates well with NeoOffice, the open source word editting software made for the Mac platform. Kevin Smith from Scholarly Communications@Duke distills down the copyright issues associated with the lawsuit. He has many excellent points and concerns, such as:

"In general, open source software is a gift that many universities like George Mason give to the academic community as a whole, and the value of that gift is increased if it is possible for scholars who have been using a costly commercial product to move their research resources from the latter into the former. That increased value (an “externality” in economic jargon) could be weighed against Thomson’s loss (which they allege is around $10 million per year) in reaching a reasonable decision about contract enforcement."
Somewhat on the topic of Thomson, at least the use of their metric, John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts mentions the joint response of many journals from the History of Science, Technology and Medicine fields to the stupidity of index metrics.
"We now confront a situation in which our own research work is being subjected to putatively precise accountancy by arbitrary and unaccountable agencies."
Larry Moran at the Sandwalk kindly reminds us that scientists, too, can be activists. The picture of Haldane raising his fist, passionately lecturing a large crowd of the "United Front" is priceless. What scientists are standing up with the people and demanding answers to pertenant issues of our day?

Anonymous Coward of Bayblab posts the letter by scientists in Canada (America's hat!) who are protesting government interference in science. Blame Go Canada!

College or Bust
Are too many people trying to get a B.A. degree? Should colleges be more selective, admit less students or be tougher to cater to the portion of society with higher IQs? Razib addresses this question with data and discusses why college is still the best bet.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Post-Coital Nudi Love

In lieu of a full quasi-informational posting while I prep for mid-terms I offer....

Mollusc Porn!

thinking of last summer, originally uploaded by dphershman.

Give us your best caption idea for this pair of Nudies in the comments below!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wherez mah Praxis submishunz at??

We're hosting Praxis October 15th and have very few submissions so far!! Surely you all have something to say about how science? Such as:

"... all aspects of life as an academic, whether it's the lifestyle, career progress, doing a Ph.D., getting funding, climbing the slippery pole, academic life as a minority, working with colleagues and students, dealing with the peer-review process, publishing, grants, science 2.0, amusing anecdotes, conference experiences, philosophical musings, public engagement, or even historical articles about what life was like in the good (or bad) old days."
So leave your submissions in the comments here or email them to me (address in the sidebar)! You have till midnight October 14th!

Carnival of the Blue #17

Carnivalblue_tCEPHALOPODS HAVE TAKEN CONTROL of this month's Carnival of the Blue!!! There is much fine tentacled offerings over at the Cephalopodcast. Jason lays it out real nicely and offers entertaining commentary. Lots of great links so be sure to drop by for a visit and check the place out! Deep Sea News will be hosting the next edition of the Carnival of the Blue in November, so be sure to write some great posts on anything related to the oceans and let them know!

Also be sure to read the International Cephalopod Appreciation Day post where you can find such great fun as the "Top 10 Things You Can Do on Cephalpod Appreciation Day" which includes listening to my song Giant squid Breakdown. I also wrote another song starring a cephalopod, Big Dead Squid.

Cellar Spiders

Longbodied Cellar Spider
Longbodied Cellar Spider, originally uploaded by eclcticechoes.

When I think of spiders I typically think of either the orb weaver spiders with their beautiful webs or tarantulas and trapdoor spiders that line burrows with layers of silk. Comparatively the cellar spider's web is a downright mess, lines going every which way, no order, random chaotic (hmmm...a bit like my desk!).

The time of year has come in New England for the cellar spiders of the family Pholcidae to show up in the house. A family with some 1000 species and a truly worldwide distribution these spiders are often referred to as "daddy long legs" which Christopher explains is an absolutely useless name since it is applied to many diverse groups of animals including our friends the harvestmen, which Christopher explains is . The one above is the Longbodied Cellar Spider (Pholcus phalangioides). This one was drunkenly admiring the art, but when the paparazzi attacked it decided to take a break from visual arts and engage in some culinary arts hiding behind the recipe books in the kitchen.

I say "drunkenly" since when these spiders walk about on the floor they often bob and weave as if they are one of the late night drunks headed past my house on a Saturday night. Their walk is not the only interesting motion of theirs. If disturbed in their webs they will begin vibrating wildly, seeming to dance. It does make them at times hard to track so I can see where this would work as a defensive maneuver.

Anyone know the meaning of "phalangioides"?

Classification for Ctenocephalides felis







Pholcus phalangioides

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Legacy Up!

Another great Linnaeus’ Legacy is up over at PodBlack Cat with killer entries that generated keywords in my filter of ants, sex, PhyloCode, ants, komodos, genebank hell, ants, fishmongers, genebank hell and your ass.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Nobel Jelly - Aequorea victoria

Ok, it a stretch, but this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Y. Tsien, for their "discovery, expression and development" of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, providing scientists with a high resolution molecular level marker to track both inter and intra cellular processes. GFP has revolutionized scientist's ability to track cell division, gene expression, protein interactions, chromosome replication, transport pathways, organelle inheritance and more. GFP has also been used to create sensors which can be read from within living cells, reporting pH values and ion concentrations. All this coming from a sweet little protein first observed in a jellyfish.

You may ask "What's so special about GFP that makes it different from other fluorescent compounds?"
What's really cool, and what makes GFP so useful as a marker is that it needs no other compounds or structures to cause its fluorescence. The chromophore is formed spontaneously from the structure of the protein and it only requires oxygen fluoresce. This means that the protein by itself can be placed into any organism and it will maintain it's fluorescent properties when it is expressed. The protein is also non-toxic and has been expressed in many organisms with no or minor physiological effects on the organism. The gene for GFP can also be combined with genes for proteins scientists want to study. This doesn't change the study protein's normal activity, yet the GFP remains fluorescent so the protein can be tracked by its fluorescence signature (400nm excitation peak -> sharp peak 505nm emission).

While the original GFP comes from the jellies, GFP-like proteins have been found in other cnidarians, primarily in the corals (anthozoa), allowing GFP monitoring with a range of spectral signatures to be used like with the red glowing cat below!

As a note one of the recipients, Osamu Shimomura, worked extensively on Cypridina ostracods, one of several bioluminescent ostracods. However they are not molluscs, contrary to what is in the Nobel Prize report (pdf).

Deep Sea News Creepy Countdown

If you haven't been following the Deep Sea News trio since the big move to the Discovery Channel, you have some catching up to do on some great posts. Kevin has kept the invertebrates in the spotlight there too, with posts such as the Deep Sea Quiz featuring a baby shrimp.

For the rest of the month the guys are featuring a daily series featuring the best deep-sea species. The series is off to a spectacularly spineless start with brachiopods of the deep and exotic shores. An immediate follow up with the Pig Butt Worm (Chaetopterus pugaporcinus) a post with great images of the Big Butt and a revealing admission by Miriam of the Oyster's Garter. They have completed an invert triple play with creeping crinoids including some great video!

I can't wait to see what is served up next in the series, there are still many great deep sea inverts to feature!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Boneyard XIV

Welcome to the 24th edition of the Boneyard. The blog carnival for everything old. Zach gave a good carnival last month, but there was something missing. Something obviously out of place. After pondering about it all month I realize this blog, The Other 95%, was the only blog that submitted a palaeo-invertebrate entry out of 15 total links. 1 out of 15, that's 6.7%, meaning that the amount of vertebrate entries were 93.3%. I was shocked, flabbergasted! While this edition will also be laden with vertebrate-centric scriblings, I'll will even out the score and ensure that at least 93.3% of the links, images and video for this edition more accurately reflect the diversity of animal life. Enjoy!

Brokeback Invertebrate: a tale of two spineless palaeontologists out in the desert searching for fossil ammonites... alone.

Bond, Peter Bond that is, presents his palaeo-art for all the world to critique. There is also an interesting discussion on how a fossil skeleton that is 95% complete can have widely varying artistic renderings.

Did you know that the world's oldest fossil animal tracks were from an invert?

Fossil serpulid worm tubes at the National History Museum, London. So cool!!!!

Zach over at When Pigs Fly Returns gets a slight invert bent discussing the weirdest dinosaur I've seen in recent memory. Check out its arms and learn what MYRMECOPHAGY means and what that (unfortunately) means for some poor invertebrate. Also, be sure to check out his virtual palaeo-art show!

The Australian government gets it.

In more recent historical news, Carl Zimmer wrote an excellent piece on the allure of big antlers. The extremely productive (despite what he might say of himself, his blog record speaks for itself) Brian Switek writes on horsies and shares a fascinating entry on "Professor Paleozoic" from the 19th century.

On the topic of palaeontological history, Over at Cryology and Co. there is a wonderful post on an extraordinary geologist, William Smith, the from 18th century. Smith wandered the hills and mapped out the geology and described such wonderful fossils as these below.

Zinjanthropus gives us a reason to take a closer look at fossils with an open mind and fresh view.

Traumador the Tyrannosaur gives an expose on Albertosaurus (or is it?) and a provides an interesting narrative on Joeseph Tyrrell.

Blastoids from Belgium!!! Where invertebrate palaeontology meets rockstardom.

Will Baird discusses the caste ecology of carboniferous times. In a very well-written essay taking a whole ecosystem approach, instead of focusing on a particular organism, and has some fascinating drawings of a land much foreign to our current time. Though hints of some of these amazing trees can still be found in strange areas such as southern Africa, Madagascar and other exotic locales.

Of course, saving the best for last. Todd Oakley gets the inverts major props for having an enormous phossilized phallus. Of course, he was naturally drawn to its large "eyes". Sure Todd ;)

There was also some good food for thought in the last edition of Linnaeus' Legacy, hosted here by Eric. Be sure to stay tuned for the 25th edition of the Boneyard at The Big Dinosaur Lie next month and remember to worship thy trilobite!