Nature Blog Network

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Spineless Song and New Toolbar

I discovered a great site for musicians to host their music, ReverbNation. You'll take a gander at the fancy new widget under my Spineless Songs sidebar! I love it and it seems to work just fine for me, so let me know if you have any problems with it. I've loaded 15 in it for now, including covers of lesser known artists that I enjoy. You can also embed the widget on other websites, even choose the songs you want in the queue and get a special widget for those ones. I believe only the first 5 songs are ones that long time readers will haven't have heard yet.

With that, I'd like to introduce the newest edition to the Spineless Songs Series! I wrote Reef City (Click link for lyrics) for Deep Sea News fabulous Coral Week, going on right now! Its number 1 in the widget (the newest songs will be in the top spot). Additionally, I've launched a personal website with a song vault of EVERYTHING I have done, sciencey or not. You sign up for song updates via iTunes podcasts or RSS feed.

The World of Entomologists

Want to study bugs? Make sure you look at this public service announcement first!

Hat tip to SALP and the Penn State Entomology Department.

Circus of the Spineless Reminder

Deep Sea News is hosting the Circus of the Spineless this month. Due to their amazing Coral Week going on right now, they will be putting up the Circus on Saturday. So feel free to email submissions to kzelnio at gmail dot com until Friday evening.

Muddy Waters Anniversary

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death of an amazing blues legend, one that I was influenced by early in my life when I was exploring musical tastes. His songs, still timeless, are played throughout bars, clubs and arena to this day and have become standards in blues music, but also jazz, rock and other genres. Invertebrates everywhere salute you Here is an excerpt from Blues Legacy:

Remembering Muddy Waters 1915 – 1983

The Classic Studio T label and Blues Legacy would also like to take the opportunity of commemorating the life and music of the legendary Blues artist Muddy Waters who passed on this day (April 30th) 25 years ago.

As many of you know, British trombonist Chris Barber introduced Muddy Waters to UK audiences in 1958.The outcome of the tour with The Chris Barber Band was nothing short of a magnificent milestone in history.The recordings recently discovered by The Blues Legacy are now available on The Blues Lost & Found – Volume 2 album and it is possible to find out more details and purchase online via:

If you wanted to just hear a few Muddy Waters tracks for free, simply check out our My Space page:

Muddy Waters was a huge inspiration for musicians in the British scene and is known as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Not only did the tour with Chris Barber enhance Muddy’s reputation in Europe, but in turn, reawakened an interest in the blues from the other side of the Atlantic. Arguably, it was this visit to British shores, with Muddy on electric guitar, which led to the phenomenal rise of the blues explosion. We salute you Muddy!
I am sure he would want each one of us to honor his memory by getting our mojo working!

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's CORAL WEEK at Deep Sea News!

Its finally Coral Week at Deep Sea News! Its only been 2 days and its already chock full of awesome coraliscious articles, history, biblical references, videos and pictures. Make sure you bookmark DSN this week and head over there everyday this week to read about everyones favorite reef-builder. Articles are written by the 3 stooges of Deep Sea News, but each day brings guest articles by professionals in the field of deep-sea coral research.

Lophelia pertusa (white parts are the actively growing region) with the crab Eumunida picta. Photo courtesy of C. Fisher.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Calamari Thermal Gradient

So exactly how long does it take to thaw out a 495kg squid?

That is a good question. A few relevant details are that the thawing tank is a 10,000 Litre salt water tank. The 8m long squid is currently frozen in a block of ice.

Well it turns out that the best estimate by the folks at Te Papa were a little bit off from the original estimate due to a miscalculation of the amount of ice surrounding the squid. Still, they have adapted their schedule and as my Environmental Reaction and Transport Professor constantly reminds us, "What's a factor of two or three between friends?"

Follow all the developments and links to webcasts and webarchives at the Te Papa blog.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How Not To Use PowerPoint

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earthcast 2008 Reminder

Just a reminder that I will be a guest along with Rick MacPherson of CORAL and the wonderful marine conservation blog Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets and Karen James of The Beagle Project and its blog on Jason Robertshaw's special Earth Day Cephalopodcast as part of Earthcast 2008.

You can listen in live at the Edtechtalk website (audio stream upper right sidebar) and join the conversation live via a chat room where you can ask us a question. Our conversation will be on the "The other 71%", our oceans! Tune in at 10pm GMT (6pm Eastern US, 3pm Pacific US time). See Jason's post for more details.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Inverts in the Ear

The Blieman brothers have put up an invert post about a tiny crab invading the ear of a friend with painful results.

This one touches a childhood fear of mine: an invert in the ear. Specifically for me it was a fear of a spider or an earwig crawling in my ear when I was asleep.

Scorpions? No problem. In my boots? Sure, whatever.

Tarantulas, yeah I loved them as pets (Much to Mom's chagrin!)

Earwig on my sleeping bag... Holy Sh*t! Get it (or me) outa here.

Fortunately I eventually outgrew that as an irrational fear, but earwigs are still my least favorite invert. Of course Ceti Eels in the Wrath of Khan did nothing to help matters.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Squid Workshop will be Televised

I mentioned before that this was a possibility, and with an overwhelming response - the Te Papa museum and Discovery Channel have announced that the examination of four giant squid (Architeuthis dux) and one colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) currently on ice in the Te Papa collection will be will be webcast. Additionally they will be filmed for a Discovery Channel documentary that will be released in late 2008.

The webcast will be live on the Te Papa and Discovery Channel websites: April 28-29 the four giant squid will be examined. On April 30th the colossal squid examination will be webcast. The seminars will be on May 1st and 2nd -- but no news on whether those will be webcast or not.

More details in Te Papa's media release.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Earthcast 2008

As part of Earth Day festivities next week, I will be a guest with Karen of the Beagle Project and Rick of Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets on Jason's Cephalopodcast. This will part of a 24-hour webcastathon for Earth Day. Jason's theme for his segment is, cleverly, "The Other 71%", in reference to the amount Earth's surface covered by oceans.

There will also be opportunities to participate in the dialog through chat rooms while the webcast is live streaming, so I encourage everyone to tune in at 10pm GMT (6pm Eastern US time) and join the conversation! There will be more details on how to participate, but for now read Jason's blog post on Earthcast, check out the schedule for the whole 24 hours worth of events, and visit EdTechTalk from the Worldbridges network - the hub of all the activity!

Linnaeus' Legacy #6

All the great taxonomic fun of the past month bundled into one nice tidy carnival! Jim at From Archaea to Zeaxanthol has the latest Linneaus' Legacy carnival.

Monday, April 14, 2008

An ABC Book of Invertebrates

This book is absolutely stunning and brilliant. Learn the ABC's of the invertebrate world (terrestrial and marine) with the Adams! The book is freely available on the internet. You can read more about the artist from this fascinating NY Times story titled "A Disease That Allowed Torrents of Creativity".

S is for Seastar (called Starfish by some)
Which come in bright colours like orange, red, or plum.
Most sea stars have five arms (but some have lots more)
With undersides covered with tube feet galore
That cling to the rocks and help the star eat.
They pry open clam shells to get at the meat.

Hat tip to S.A.L.-P, via Boing Boing. Here is more of Anne Adams art. I have been told by her husband that the originals are NOT for sale, but there may be reproductions for sale in the future.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cthe Ctenacious Ctenophore

Once there was a sad jelly

The jelly felt sorry for itself because it didn't have any nematocysts and couldn't lash out to innocent human swimmers causing incredible pain to them. The jelly wanted to be the subject of a horror film, and wanted people to swim away in horror when they saw it. The jelly wanted to be respected.

The jelly propelled itself sideways, its oral lobe cast wide open to grab at a few plankton for lunch. It sidled up to the Wise Old Beroe and complained about the uselessness of its tentacles. "Fool," said the Beroe. "I have half a mind to gobble you right here and now. I don't even have tentacles, and you have the nerve to complain that you have no sting in yours? Why, if I had even the sticky tentacles that you do, I would be able to eat twice as many comb jellies as I already do."

Our little friend had forgotten all about the voracious diet of beroes, and that their preferred meal is in fact of the ctenophore phylum. It thought furiously, which is hard for a creature with no central nervous system, and came up with an idea. 'I'll make the Wise Old Beroe tell me a story about ctenophores getting one up on the humans. It'll be so busy telling me the story, it will forget that it wants to eat me.'

It was worth a shot, right?

"So, Wise Old Beroe, what was it that happened to the fisheries in the Black Sea?"

This was a subject that the Beroe loved to brag about, and as hungy as it was it couldn't resist telling the story.

"Around forty years ago, a group of adventurous Mnemiopsis leidyi stowed way in the ballast of a ship leaving port from the United States. The brave comb jellies dumped out in the Black Sea and found a plunder that they hadn't imagined possible. The beauty part was that since they were new to the black sea, there were no nasty predators to eat them. They had a high time, living off the sea, eating and multiplying until they took over the ecosystem.

"What had started out as a few meek gelatinous seafarers soon, by 1989, overwhelmed the anchovies. The Mnemiopsis starved out the other fish, growing to a mass of a billion tonnes. The humans were panicking. The comb jellies had scared the humans, but good."

"What happened next?" asked our little friend.

"What happens next is that I eat you," said the Beroe, which it promptly did. The Beroe was too hungry to tell the story, and it was boring to tell after a while.

But there is more:

Biologists considered introducing one of Mnemiopsis's predators such as Beroe ovata, another comb jelly to rebalance the food web. However the idea seemed too risky because attempts to use biocontrols, such as the introduction of the cane toad to Australia, can go horribly wrong. For example Beroe may also begin to eat native comb jellies or other species that are important to the ecosystem and therefore cause the original problems to escalate.

Then, without any intervention by humans, in 1997, B. ovata established itself in the Black Sea of its own accord, either by migrating naturally from the Mediterranean or possibly in ship's ballast water again. Initial occupation of coastal areas spread rapidly and by 1999 Beroe populations in the entire northeast region of the Black Sea.

"I could not believe it," says Tamara Shiganova of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow. Since Beroe arrived there has been a massive decline in the Mnemiopsis population while some species of plankton have begun to increase, Shiganova and her colleagues report in a paper that will appear in Hydrobiologia. Because B. ovata feeds upon animals similar to itself, such as Mnemiopsis, as opposed to the smaller zooplankton and fish populations, the initial reports look positive. However, the long term effects are much more difficult to predict. It will take many years of monitoring population cycles, ecosystem dynamics and seasonal variations in order to determine the true impact that this invasion will have.

Recently Casey Dunn of Brown University was quoted in a press release from his university as being shocked to find that a new study of which he was a chief author revealed a new twist in the emergence of ctenophores. The comb jellies he studied may have been the first multicellular animals in the ancient seas. The creationists jumped all over this because they thought it meant that since ctenophora are more complex than sponges, the "darwinist" story of emerging complexity had been disproven. Troy Britain at Playing Chess With Pigeons explains:

The article relates the surprise of the scientists who conducted the study, but doesn’t adequately explain that what was “shocking” was the difference between the expectations they had based on looking at the comparative morphologies of the living representatives from these two lineages and the results they got from their study which was looking at when (relatively speaking) the different lineages diverged genetically in the geologically distant past.

Living comb jellies are more complex than living sponges, but this genetically based study tells us nothing about what the ancestors of living comb jellies looked like when it originally split off the tree, or exactly how long ago this split occurred.

The creationist crowing was premature, and it was based on a press release. It was not based on a reading of the study.

So, I thought I would read a bit more about ctenophores, them being the source of some recent excitement, and I decided to share a few links that I found regarding comb jellies:

First, Claudia E. Mills lists the ctenophores here:

Mills, C.E. Internet 1998-present. Phylum Ctenophora: list of all valid species names. Electronic internet document available at Published by the author, web page established March 1998, last updated (see date at end of page).

As she requests on her page hosted by the University of Washington, I am not going to copy her work into this post. Just go there.

The Jellies Zone pages on ctenophores.

The strange bioluminescence of comb jellies.

I could go on for days with comb jellies, but I hope that this leads the reader to some great exploration of comb jellies. Remember to watch for the Beroes when you get to the Black Sea. The sad little jelly came to a bad end, and if you don't be careful, young'uns, the same end could befall you.

In a Perfect World...

Thanks LOLinverts! I'm not the only one that find this hilarious am I??

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spineless Blogrolling

Echinoblog - All Echinoderm, all the time. Written by Smithsonian Museum echinoderm biologist Chris Mah.

Diario de un Copépodo - In spanish, offers "reflections of invertebrates" that are often shunted by the news.

LOLinverts - invert macros set to LOLz, what could be more fun!?

Adrian Glover's blog - a polychaete expert from the Natural History Museum, London.

Romunov's Blog et al - A student in Slovenia with a knack towards the spineless.

The Annotated Budak - A wonderful read about the natural history of Singapore

Rock Flippin!

So it was such a nice day today we went out and looked for insects! I flipped over a rock in my yard and found some ants tending to their young. Half of the future generation was subsequently wiped out hen my son decided to stick his finger in the middle of the grub pile. But it was fun watching the workers try their hardest to scurry off with the larvae. We must have looked quite the threat (and my son was!)

Maybe one of my ant blogging spineless compatriots, or Pennsylvania natural historians can tell me what species this is?

Robert Denno Passed Away

This news is a couple weeks old, but I just found out about it. Robert Denno was one of the top Entomologists in this country. His sudden loss is a blow to the field. I met him and saw his talk on multi-trophic interactions across variable landscapes at Penn State in Spring 2006. He was a very good speaker and genuinely excited by his work and science in general. When I discussed my own work with him, he listened very closely and offered excellent comments.

Adam Bloom, from the University of Maryland's student paper, writes of his death,

"But what made him more than just a successful scientist was his energy, curiosity and thoughtful demeanor, friends said. He was often seen running through the halls of the Plant Sciences building, going from room to room, meeting strangers and greeting his fellow faculty members with a hearty handshake and a "Hey, dude!" said longtime colleague and professor emeritus Galen Dively."
Denno was 62 when died of a heart attack while doing fieldwork at Georgia's Sapelo Island. He last day was spent collecting butterflies, the very thing he did as a child that got him interested in entomology in the first place.

Rest in peace Denno, insects everywhere are raising their antennae in your honor.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Save Utrecht's Herbarium!

As long time readers know, I have a passion for museums. Please take a few moments of your time to click on the link below, read the short couple paragraphs and enter your name in the box to sign the petition to the College Board of Utrecht University. With ever increasing knowledge of biodiversity and a steady rate of discovering new species, museums and herbaria play a significant role in organizing and managing all that data, as well training more specialists.

"Dear Friends,

Sorry for cross-posting, but I'd like to bring the following to your attention.

On 26th March 2008 the University Board of Utrecht University, The Netherlands, informed the employees of the Utrecht Herbarium that as of 1 June 2008 the Herbarium is to be closed and, with immediate effect, access to the collections, from national as well as international workers, is to cease. This must not be allowed!

*Closure of the Herbarium is a disaster for current national and international research!

*Closure of the Herbarium is a disaster for any future research!

*Closure of the Herbarium contradicts the Biodiversity Covenant signed by the Netherlands which ensures the accessibility of data relating to biodiversity (either under Dutch ownership or under Dutch guardianship)!

*Closure of the Herbarium is a disaster for all the botanical andecological research taking place in South America, especially Suriname, Guyana, French Guyana and the Amazonian basin.

*Closure of the Herbarium is in effect a denial of the cultural-historical value of this Herbarium to The Netherlands and Suriname!

*Closure of the Herbarium is the start of scientific deterioration and wrecks the near-finalized plans for the creation of one Dutch Centre for Biodiversity [NCB].

What can you do?

Please sign the petition at and forward this email to others."

Please spread the word.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Exposing Expelled

All the news on the Expelled Fiasco.

Hardscore Snail Porn: Click only if You Are 18 or Over

Snail porn the first half and amazing invert footage the other half, including larvae breaking out of and eating its egg case and a spider snatching and eating a grasshopper. Sexy Boy by Air certainly sets the mood for the snail sex scene! Footage from Microcosmos.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Isopods Cause Reproductive Death in Shrimp

ResearchBlogging.orgIsopods, you know them as those adorable little roly-poly bugs under rocks in the forest or the gigantic Bathynomus of the deep sea. They are also those cute and cuddly parasites in the gill chamber of shrimp too! Awww, How special! In the recent issue of JMBA-UK, Calado et al. describe how these fuzzy wittle darlings castrate their shrimpity hosts.

The isopod in question is the Argeiopsis inhacae, a member of the parasitic family of isopods - Bopyridae. They don't start off as the lovely parasite "friend" of shrimp. The larvae begins life as a free swimmer until it finds a copepod to attach itself too, then metamorphoses into another larval stage and looks to buddy up with the nearest shrimp it can find.

Calado et al. found that when pairing unparasitized males and females together, females laid perfectly fine clutches of eggs. However, when unparasitized males were paired with females containing the isopod, there were never any egg clutches laid. This is in spite of similar courtship behavior and no differences in moult patterns. Furthermore, parasitized adult female shrimp did not develop a key feature denoting fertile production, a bright green spot on the back that marks the presence of large yolky oocytes. It appears that this bopyrid isopod causes "reproductive death" in females Stenopus hisidus. Unfortunately, they never tested whether parasitized males can make viable offspring. It is still not known whether parasitism is sex-biased or appears as such because of the author's limited sampling.

This short study is interesting because it is the first experimental study to nail down reproductive cessation due to the isopod parasite. What use is it to stop reproduction? One reason may be to divert the host's resources away from reproduction, an energy expensive process. The isopod would ensure its survival and its continuance to leech off the shrimp.

The isopod, Argeiopsis inhacae, forces the shrimp's carapace to bulge, as it grows inside the branchial chamber. Figure 2 from Calado et al. (2008).

Calado, R., Bartilotti, C., Goy, J.W., Dinis, M.T. (2008). Parasitic castration of the stenopodid shrimp Stenopus hispidus (Decapoda: Stenopodidae) induced by the bopyrid isopod Argeiopsis inhacae (Isopoda: Bopyridae). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK, 88(02) DOI: 10.1017/S0025315408000684

Monday, April 7, 2008

Rednecks Build Mechanical Spider Because They Can.

I think I must agree with the poster of this video on YouTube:

"I have no idea who these guys are, but they managed to build an 8-legged, gas-powered spider mech in their spare time. Screw NASA and DARPA - turn them over to rednecks plus Burt Rutan and we'll have a Mars colony and Robotech in 10 years."

Hat Tip to Seiberwing.

Carnival of the Blue #11

The 11th edition of the Carnival of the Blue, the last month's best in ocean blogging as defined by the host, is up at Zooillogix! Its the BEST EVER, according to the hosts...

Saving the Reefs with BioRock

Is It Too Late?

The oceans can't recover from the heat trap of carbon-dioxide as quickly as the atmosphere could.

The rise in temperatures in the ocean work on a mean turnover rate of up to 1000 years, so even if all carbon-based energy extraction were to cease right now, it is probably too late to prevent a rise in temperatures to levels mortal to coral reefs. Corals lay the foundation for underwater colonies of marine life. If the coral die out, the effects run straight up the food chain to the fish that humans depend on for food. Unless we find a way to assist the coral to recover, we will reduce the available food stock for humans from the sea.

It is even now close to the breaking point from overfishing, and left to herself to recover the ocean may simply say "Give me more time, you fools!" Perhaps there is a way for humans to undo the damage we have caused and allow our foodstocks to return to sustainable levels.

Bio-Rock Mineral Accretion Technology may be one way that we can put things back to rights (we still need to reduce our carbon-dependence:)

Biorock Technology, or mineral accretion technology is a method that applies safe, low voltage electrical currents through seawater, causing dissolved minerals to crystallize on structures, growing into a white limestone similar to that which naturally makes up coral reefs and tropical white sand beaches. This material has a strength similar to concrete. It can be used to make robust artificial reefs on which corals grow at very rapid rates. The change in the environment produced by electrical currents accelerates formation and growth of both chemical limestone rock and the skeletons of corals and other shell-bearing organisms.

It's a possibility, and I think one worth exploring.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Boneyard!

Greg Laden has the 13th edition of the Boneyard up. A traveling monthly webzine highlighting blog posts focusing on paleontology. This is a nice roundup and the paleo-inverts are represented by a post of mine, as well as another on Crinoids! GO. READ. LEARN. And love thy fossils.

The Colossal Squid Workshop

The colossal squid after
it was caught in 2007.

On May 1st and 2nd in Wellington, New Zealand, there will be a workshop on the examination of a 495kg (1100 lb) colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) that has been on ice for a year. The examination will be accompanied by lectures by Peter Batson, Kat Bolstad, Tsunemi Kubodera, and Steve O'Shea (potentially more). The lectures will be free.

For all of us not in New Zealand, there is a possibility of a webcast of at least the examination, if there is enough interest. If you are interested, please leave a reply to the original announcement at TONMO forums (free registration required to post a comment) or send an email to chris -at- tepapa  -dot- govt -dot- nz.  I'm really hoping that the response will be strong - I need something really intersting and cool to distract me from studying for finals!

More information should be coming up on the Te Papa museum website soon.

356 Fossil Animals Found in X-Rayed Amber

This is just an awesome find. From the European Synchotron Radiation Facility:

"Opaque amber accounts for up to 80% of the amber found in Cretaceous sites like those in Charentes. From the outside, it is impossible to tell whether something may be contained inside. Malvina Lak and her colleagues from the University of Rennes and Paul Tafforeau of the ESRF, together with the National Museum of Natural History of Paris, have applied a synchrotron X-ray imaging technique known as propagation phase contrast microradiography to the investigation of opaque amber. This technique permits light to reach the interior of this dark amber, which resembles a stone to the human eye. “Researchers have tried to study this kind of amber for many years with little or no success. This is the first time that we can actually discover and study the fossils contained within”, says Paul Tafforeau.

The scientists imaged 640 pieces of amber from the Charentes region in south-western France. They discovered 356 fossil animals, ranging from wasps and flies, to ants and even spiders and acarians. The team was able to identify the family for 53% of the inclusions.[...]"

"Examples of virtual 3D extraction of organisms embedded in opaque amber: a) Gastropod Ellobiidae; b) Myriapod Polyxenidae; c) Arachnid; d) Conifer branch (Glenrosa); e) Isopod crustacean Ligia; f) Insect hymenopteran Falciformicidae. Credits: M. Lak, P. Tafforeau, D. Néraudeau (ESRF Grenoble and UMR CNRS 6118 Rennes)."

Hat tip to Martin!

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Cephalopod Dating Game

I thought I would take a few minutes for a quick post as a way of hello and to say "Thanks Kevin!" But then I thought, I might as well start off on the right foot* with some cephalopod love. 

The recent  Abdopus aculeatus mating paper by Huffard et al. has been covered already in other quarters, and I won't rehash their coverage or the original press release, but there is new video available to go with it from two different sources, which I think is enough of an excuse for me to throw together a quick post highlighting not only this study but some of the other cool work Christine and her colleagues did on this species. But first the video...

A distinctly different video with Roy Caldwell narrating can be found on the Associated Press video site. Unfortunately they don't provide embedable video, but it's well worth the click (and waiting through their 15-30 second advert video).

Christine Huffard is now a Postdoc at MBARI and did her thesis on Abdopus aculeatus behavior and locomotion.  In the paper that was recently published online in Marine Biology, she and her colleagues described the complex mating behaviors of this species, information gleaned through over 790 hours of observation in the wild. Much has already been mentioned of the sneaker males,  males guarding female burrows, male aggression towards competitors, males ripping and tearing each other's hectocotylus arms (OUCH!).  

One thing I find especially interesting is that many of the behaviors noted in their study of this octopus have been noted in one or more species of squid or cuttlefish before. As the authors report, this species of octopus does not show any reason to be especially unique in mating behavior either, suggesting that other species of octopus may have similar behavior that has not yet been observed. 

In their 1996 book Cephalopod Behavior, Hanlon and Messenger were careful to point out that there were not many studies to base the chapter on, and especially lament the lack of knowledge in oceanic squid mating behavior.  Mating behavior in cephalopods was at that time represented primarily by a select few species: 15 species of squid, with only two well studied, 9 species of cuttlefish, again with only two species well studied, and 16 species of octopuses with laboratory studies of Octopus vulgaris comprising the bulk of the observations. Octopuses were viewed as solitary animals and octopus mating was interpreted as the last major act in life and one without any ritual or selectivity, or as Boyle and Rodhouse summarized in Cephalopods: Ecology and Fisheries -
Mating takes place with few preliminaries in octopuses, but in cuttlefish and loliginid squid , elaborate courtship behaviors have been described.
In the intervening 12 years many discoveries have changed the way cephalopod mating and subsequent parental care is understood, or at least viewed. Hunt and Seibel showed that Gonatus onyx, in contrast to all other known squid species, broods its eggs, caring for them for over a year before they hatched as the female literally wastes away, metabolizing her own muscles to stay alive.  Recent research by Hanlon et al. published in 2005 suggests that at least in one species of cuttlefish, Sepia apama, the females may "reward" sneaker males by choosing their spermatophores as the ones used to fertilize the eggs. Interestingly, the Huffard paper found that the length of single copulation time for a sneaker male was twice as long as for a guarding or transient male. So finally, we find an octopus species with what would traditionally be known as squid and cuttlefish-like agonistic behavior, complex mating rituals, guarding behavior and sneak attack/sexual mimicry. In just a dozen years, octopus mating has gone from a boring, post-climactic act to spicy, complex, and even intimate.

With hints of similar behavior in other octopus species (Octopus cyanea), there is now even more need to get some significant observation time in on at least the shallow water species. Christine and her colleague put in 790 animal observation hours watching 167 individuals(!!). Aside from the cephalopods, this study had the video technology working with video data recording, video analysis and illustrations pulled from video.  For me, adding in some diving (they had no need, as it was snorkel accessible intertidal areas) would make it a perfect study.


Huffard et al. Mating behavior of Abdopus aculeatus (d’Orbigny 1834) (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae) in the wild. Marine Biology (2008). Published online: 23 February 2008. 

Boyle, P.R.,  and P.G. Rodhouse. 2005. Cephalopods: Ecology and Fisheries. Blackwell, Oxford, UK

Hanlon et al. Transient sexual mimicry leads to fertilization. Nature (2005) vol. 433 pp. 212 

Hanlon, R.T. and J.B. Messenger. 1996. Cephalopod behavior. Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA.

*Huffard et al. Underwater Bipedal Locomotion by Octopuses in Disguise. Science (2005) vol. 307 pp. 1927.

Hunt, J.C. and B.A. Seibel. Life history of Gonatus onyx (Cephalopoda: Teuthoidea): ontogenetic changes in habitat, behavior and physiology. Marine Biology (2000) vol. 136 pp. 543-552.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Blogging Without Backbone

Hello, World!

I wish to thank Kevin for taking this chance on adding me to The Other 95% and I will be careful. He assed me to keep the cussin' down, and I think I can cooperate on the occasions I contribute here. Sure.

My main blog is at Tangled Up in Blue Guy, and Kevin has been good enough to give me some positive feedback when I have written about those fauna who don't need no steenking backbone. I have been talking to Greg Laden about finishing up my degree the University of Minnesota with non-traditional program based on science writing and science journalism. This will be my practice site, and I hope to be treated mercilessly.

Just so you can get a sampling on what I have done I'll link to one of my favorite posts from Tangled Up in Blue Guy, "Lighting the Phylogenetic Tree." Heres's an excerpt:

We are naturally anthropomorphic and anthropocentric. In the Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins refers to the biological arms race as an analogy to demonstrate one way in which natural selection works. It is not perfect, but the metaphor illustrates the point in a way that we can relate to our own societies and national struggles for survival. The angler jellyfish have survived for so long because they evolved a deceptive strategy that works, and keeps them ahead, at least for now, in the arms race.

And still, the question remains. What advantage does red luminescence afford the angler jellyfish? It may have something to do with what seems to be its preferred breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cyclothones are likely the most common vertebrate on the planet (sorry, anthropocentrics!) but the question remains on cyclothones as to why they would be among the few fish at that deep dark level to develop the ability to see red. They are hard to study because they are incredibly fragile and hard to capture without killing them. One possibility is that a form of chlorophyll which produces red coloration is quite common in the ocean, so the ability to see red poses a distinct feeding advantage for cyclothones.

Listen, I know that jellies aren't fish. I say "sea stars" when appropriate instead of starfish. I haven't figured out how to get comfortable with referring to jellyfish without conceding to the chordatist bias. I'll work on it.

Thanks again, Kevin!

On the Rookies

Or FNGs as I like to call them. Except that they are not new to blogging, just The Other 95%. I'd like you to clap your crustaceous claws together and welcome Eric and Mike to the blog! Eric is a non-traditional undergrad (=older with kid) at UCONN with an interest in cephalopods, while Mike is hoping to get into a science communication program and will be using this space as his writing lab.

I'm (nervously) handing over the key to them and excited to see what they come up with. We will be bigger, badder, better, pornier and even more spinelesser than ever! So, everyone say hi and commence the hazing rituals.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Circus of the Spineless is Up!

Jim over at From Archaea to Zeaxanthol has posted up last month's edition of the Carnival of the Spineless, highlighting all the best posts without a backbone in the blogosphere! Go. Read. Click.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tuesday Toon

Actually, I don't really find this that funny, but I'll take any chance I get to post something on squid.

TO95 on the YouTube and Facebook

It was bound to happen. Social networking is the hanging out at the record store and coffee houses. I invite you to subscribe to my channel on YouTube where i have uploaded my Vlogs and will continue to upload them there. I also will bookmark some wonderful invertebrate videos from other.

Also, you can also "friend" me on facebook and I've set up a group for this blog on Facebook where anyone can profess their love for all things spineless, suggest new song ideas and lyrics as well as share awesome invertebrate stories, pictures and video.

Yay connectivity!