Nature Blog Network

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Check Out This Horse!

Hat tip to the inimitable Fail Blog.

Ostracod or Ostracode

Gigantocypris sp. the gigantic ostracod.

Unfortunately, this is not my photo. I only wish I could see one of these up close like that! This is from the blog of José Xavier, a Portuguese researcher who participated in an IPY cruise earlier this year. Some of the creatures they sampled were deep sea ostracods, along with a menagerie of other treasures, such as a trio of squid: Bathyteuthis abyssicola , Galiteuthis glacialis and Slosarczykovia circumantarctica, but back to the ostracods...

The life photo meme said, "Hard". Hmmm... so many possible interpretations, but then I remembered the ostracods. This crustacean looks like a clam or mussel externally with its bivalved carapace. The morphology of the carapace is the main characteristic that taxonomic and phylogenetic studies have been based on, and the heavily calcified valves of benthic species are well represented in the fossil record from the Ordovician period onwards. Inside that carapace is mostly head and gonads, with 6 to 7 pairs of appendages (antennules, antennae, mandibles and maxillae and 2-3 pairs of thoracic appendages). These appendage can be extended through the valve gape.

As a related side note, the ostracods have the largest sperm, both absolute size and size relative to body. In many species the males need a special organ called a "Zenker's organ" to help expel the sperm.

Ostracods are a diverse group, with 6,000 described living species making them one of the largest crustacean taxa. There are also about 10,000 fossil species described, including Colymbosathon ecplecticos, the current record holder for the oldest fossilized penis at 425 mya.

Modern ostracods are found mainly in the marine realm, but also in fresh water, salt lakes, hot springs, and more rarely, terrestrially in the damp forest soils of Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. There are ostracods as small as 0.2mm and as large as 30mm. Most are benthic animals living on and in the sediments as adults, but a few are planktonic for all of their life. Ostracods employ most of the possible feeding strategies available: filter feeding, detritivore, herbivore, planktivore, scavenging carnivore, a few are parasitic to other crustaceans and echinoderms, and a few, such as Gigantocypris sp., are predatory carnivores.

I have some fresh water ostracods in an aquarium, which we needed to view under the microscope to identify. They were barely visible in the aquarium, about .5mm to .75mm in total size, and a pale translucent white. Somewhere I have some pictures of them, but they pale in comparison to the up to 30mm giant above, in its deep sea camouflaging orange pigment.

Part of why I thought about the ostracods is that Todd Oakly, of Evolutionary Novelties, recently began a series of posts on ostracods he calls Ostra-Blog. Giantocypris was the inaugural post. In the past he has covered evolution of the ostracod eye, which was central to his Ph.D thesis and his current work. Of the Gigantocypris sp. he says:
Perhaps the most amazing feature of Gigantocypris is their eyes. In most animals' eyes, light is bent and focused with lenses. But a select few bend light with mirrors. Gigantocypris is one of the few, bearing a huge pair of parabolic reflectors behind light sensitive patches.
Such an interesting group of crustaceans, capped off by the giant of them all complete with mirrored satellite dishes in its eyes.

Of course this still leaves open the question: Is it "ostracod" or "ostracode"?

Classification for Gigantocypris agassizii






Gigantocypris agassizii (G.W.Miller 1895)

Ruppert, E.E., Fox, R.S. & Barnes, R.D. 2004. Invertebrate Zoology: A Functional Evolutionary Approach. Seventh Edition. Thomson, Brooks/Cole.: 687-690.

Chapman, A. (1960) Terrestrial Ostracods of New Zealand. Nature (1960) vol. 185 (4706) pp. 121-121 doi:10.1038/185121a0

Pinto, L.L. (2005) On new terrestrial ostracods (Crustacea, Ostracoda) from Brazil, primarily from São Paulo State. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society vol. 145 (2) pp. 145-173 doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2005.00185.x

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bush or Batman?

Hilarious. Hat Tip to Bora!

Origin of Species - Jamaican Style

As a big fan of Caribbean music, especially jamaican beats, I was stoked to hear about the Origin of Species in Dub project. The preface, introduction, chapters 1, 3, 4, 14 and a special bonus tribute to the outcome of the Dover trials are all up on the website and YouTube freely available! Here is the introduction:

Hat tip to the brand-spanking-new-totally-going-to-be-awesome blog by Professor Mark Pallen called The Rough Guide to Evolution. Go there and say hi, put the blog in your feed, its going be good!

1705 Insect Monograph

Tarantula & Weaver Ants in Guava Tree

Maria Sybilla Merian's Metamorphosibus Insectorum Surinamensium is an exquisite collection of scientific drawings from an extremely talented artist and entomologist. Some of the watercolors of these plates are in a show "Amazing Rare Things", a collaboration between David Attenborough and the Queen's Gallery in London. For those of us not in England... they have a nice website with great images and commentary by David. The original watercolor of this plate was purchased by none other than King George III (albeit when he was the Prince of Wales).

Check out more plates, as well as the backstory on the volume and Merian at the brilliant site for bibliophiles - BibliOdyssey.

Audubon House Gallery also has a very nice collection of her watercolors available in the Merian Gallery

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mosquitos, What Good Are They Anyway?

NPR's Krulwich on Science discusses the positive marks of mosquitos with David Quammen this morning. Here is my favorite reason, go to the link above for more:

"Knowing, as we all do, that humans for eons have been moving into forests and plains and shores and river valleys and hills, pushing animals, vegetables and minerals around in their very human way, destroying more and more life forms, and knowing, as we also do, that we are down to precious few places on Earth where there is still a rich diversity of species, have you ever wondered why, even into the 21st century, there are still large tracts of equatorial rainforest that have somehow survived human exploitation?

Who or what has defended those last outposts of ferns, butterflies, beetles and ants from humankind?

Quammen says while there may be many explanations, certainly the lady mosquito deserves credit. Every time human settlers stepped into those areas in serious numbers, they got bit, then they got sick, and then, until very recently, most of them backed off.

So all you biophiliacs, tree huggers, Green Party members: If greens everywhere wanted to say thank you to one creature, one fierce defender of ecological diversity who's been willing to bite to defend her turf, they should, says Quammen, say "thanks to 10 million generations of jungle-loving, disease-bearing, blood-sucking insects" — and especially, of course, to the lady mosquito, "nature's Viet Cong."

Hat tip to Michael Barton, FCD.

On the Allure of the Ocean's Novelty

SEED Magazine has put my article up on their website! Go there and take a read. Let me know what you think or address any questions, comments and concerns below!


  • Bora highlights it on his blog!
  • Mike weighs in on the article!


I'm working on an invert outreach project right now involving drawings, and you know I really want to slip in a card doen in the style of's talented artist Len.

Maybe a Squid with attitude:

Or a fearsome worm:

I'm Liberally Hip

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a New Left Hipster, also known as a liberal, a Netroots activist, or a Daily Show fanatic. You believe that if we really want to defend American values, conservatives must be exposed, mocked, and assailed for every fanatical, puritanical, warmongering, Constitution-shredding ideal for which they stand.

Because Mike made Bora do it.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I fail to understand why people are discriminated against for biking! I bike everyday to work, in all weather except ice on the roads, for several reason. Its cheap, I enjoy it, its easier and just as fast as driving, don't have to worry about parking or paying for parking, it keeps my beer belly in stasis and I feel great after 25 minutes of cardiovascular work-out when I arrive at my office or back home among other reasons. I understand the current city plans of the US (with notable exceptions) are not engineered with bike commuters in mind. Hopefully this will change as time progresses and gas prices increase. Sure, some bike commuters have a holier-than-thou attitude, but the majority just do it because it is the sensible option for them. It might not be the sensible option for all people, but those that can should do it more. Even a bad attitude DOES NOT excuse an officer for blatant brutality. The Gothamist reports.
"Although a judge ruled in 2006 that the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides could proceed without a permit, the NYPD's stance remains somewhat adversarial. Though the city has not been enforcing the controversial parade permit law when it comes to Critical Mass, police have been ticketing cyclists during the ride for such infractions as not having the required lights.

A representative for TIMES UP! tells us that the cyclist in this video was arrested, held for 26 hours, and charged with attempted assault and resisting arrest. One other cyclist was ticketed Friday night for riding outside the bike lane, which is not actually illegal and often necessary, considering how popular bike lanes are for double parking."

Off With Their Heads!

Artist and "Rogue Entomologist" Judith Klausner has created a mantispiece using mantids to re-enact famous scenes of beheading. Such as the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes below. Go to the link above and check out more!

Hat tip to Boing Boing.

"The Reaper Will Come for All of Us...

... the question is what do we do between the time we're born and the time he shows up"

Take 6 minutes out of you day to watch this video, of one the last, from Randy Pausch. He passed away recently from terminal cancer. If you are unfamiliar with his "The Last Lecture", take an hour and a quarter to watch it today. Rarely do I view something on the internet that chokes me up as much as this. My third time watching his lecture still moves me so very much.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Best Species Etymology Evah!

In a new species description for an interstitial water mite Antonia G. Valdecasas tells it like it is. He "gets it" and has the cajones to put it out there in the published literature. I've said it once and I'll say it again, you can't judge every researcher using the same citation index, especially when it has been proven time and again to be worthless.

Etymology. Vagabundia comes from the Spanish word ‘vagabundo’ that means ‘wanderer’. It is a feminine substantive; sci refers to Science Citation Index. We pointed out some time ago (Valdecasas et al. 2000) that the popularity of the Science Citation Index (SCI) as a measure of ‘good’ science has been damaging to basic taxonomic work. Despite statements to the contrary that SCI is not adequate to evaluate taxonomic production (Krell 2000), it is used routinely to evaluate taxonomists and prioritize research grant proposals. As with everything in life, SCI had a beginning and will have an end. Before it becomes history, I dedicate this species to this sociological tool that has done more harm than good to taxonomic work and the basic study of biodiversity. Young biologists avoid the ‘taxonomic trap’ or becoming taxonomic specialists (Agnarsson & Kuntner 2007) due to the low citation rate of strictly discovery-oriented and interpretative taxonomic publications. Lack of recognition of the value of these publications, makes it difficult for authors to obtain grants or stable professional positions.

Valdecasas AG (2008) Confocal microscopy applied to water mite taxonomy with the description of a new genus of Axonopsinae (Acari, Parasitengona, Hydrachnidia) from Central America. Zootaxa 1820:41-48 (download paper here)

Hat tip to John Wilkins.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Invert Aperatif

Kevin's post made me look about for some less known liquors available made from or including from Thailand:

Scorpion Vodka?

Supposedly farmed raised scorpions are infused in Vodka to create "quite an acquired taste". I always have to wonder how the taste was originally acquired. Of course to help you "acquire" the taste, it is claimed to be an aphrodesiac. Yeah, ok...

Of course to really pump up that aphrodesiac effect how about some roasted scorpions? Whole scorpions lightly roasted in a soy sauce and sugar they are claimed to taste "similar to prawns but bitter" ??!



Friday, July 25, 2008


When directed to the Pink Tentacle for some potentially cool reef spying equipment by Deep Sea News, I, of course, was drawn to the entry further down about a 96 armed octopus.

All the offspring were normal...but... here's another look at the 96 armed momma:

Check out the Pink Tentacle for more mutant Japanese octopi, or if you read Japanese...the Shima Marineland Aquarium has a few log entries on cephs.

I did a quick search at TONMO and found that though seemingly very rare, this branching is not entirely unreported in the literature.

Unfortunately all the articles are unavailable through my institution! If anyone has access to any of these...

Okada, Y.K. 1935. An octopus with branched arms and mode of branching. Annot. Zool. Japon. 15: 5-23.

Okada, Y.K. 1937. An occurence of branched arms in the decapod cephalopod, Sepia esculenta Hoyle. Annot. Zool. Japon. 17(1): 93-94.

Okada, Y.K. 1965a. On Japanese octopuses with branched arms, with special reference to their captures from 1884 to 1964. Proc. Jap. Acad. 41(7): 618-623.

Okada, Y.K. 1965b. Rule of arm-branching in Japanese octopuses with branched arms. Proc. Jap. Acad. 41(7): 624-629.

Smith, E.A. 1907. Notes on an "Octopus" with branching arms. Ann. Mag. Natur. Hist. 7: 407-411.

Return of the Aquabats!

Go to The Aquabats (MySpace). Visit Boing Boing for an exclusive sneak preview of the Aquabats Super Show.

Check out the epic battle with Man-Lobster-Thing, evil henchman of the Bunnyman.

Giant Ant Sculptures!

Carcutter ants, Sydney, Australia.

Awesome "leaf"-cutter ant sculpture exhibit in Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire, UK. You absolutely must check out the 'making of' website to get an idea of scale and appreciation!

Wooden ant installation, Chicago, Illinois. From Picasa.

From fire ant festival, Ashburn, Georgia.

Ants on Canyon Rd., Sante Fe, New Mexico.

The Portsmouth, New Hampshire Giant Ant by Nathan Walker. Read more about its creation!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dust in the Wind

This is totally related to invertebrates (think decomposition). I swear!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Giant Ukrain Terrorizing Triops!

20cm long triops!

Reportedly up to 20cm long! Could this be the much sought after Lepidurus batesoni?

Phone cam video is poor quality, but still...

Help Artist Out With Deadly Spider Bite Treatment

Matt Woodson is a very talented comic-book style artist, hit by a very dangerous spider in an unfortunate circumstance. Help out a brotha! I will be contacting regarding my next tattoo. Via Boing Boing:

A poisonous spider bit artist Matthew Woodson, and the medical treatment is expensive. He's accepting commissions to offset the costs of the treatment, which is expected to last eight months. (Portfolio here)

On Monday of last week I was bitten by a yet unknown poisonous spider on my right knee. By Tuesday I was running a high fever and unable to walk. On Friday evening I collapsed and was rushed to the ER. After a series of x-rays and a whole lot of examination, I was informed that I had a rather large abscess and cellulitis due to the spider's bite. I was sent home early Saturday morning after having my knee surgically "drained", and in more pain than I have ever been in. After a doctor's appointment this Monday, another abscess was drained and I was informed that I would need to see a doctor weekly until the wound had healed, which could possibly take up to 8 months. Within these 8 months there will remain the very real threat of the infection spreading into the bone of my knee, as well as the possibility of blood poisoning.

Any possible commission you could have for me; gifts, wedding invitations, cards, wall art, tattoos, anything. I am interested in the job. I will also definitely consider larger personal commissions, considering the work involved. I would prefer to only be working in black and white, but don't be afraid to ask about color. I haven't exactly figured out how pricing will go yet, but obviously pricing will be negotiable and varying, but for small to medium sized drawings I was thinking between $100 - $500 through paypal.
See Woodson's post for more information: Kill Spiders, Buy Art.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I (Heart) Conch

New T-shirt from the Cotton Factory!! This one goes out to Andrew.

Crowns Of Trouble

Number reefs with (filled) and
without (open) A. planci outbreaks
in Open fishing and No-take zones.

I'm sure most people here are familiar with the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) which have been devastating reefs in the Indo-Pacific region, most infamously, the Great Barrier Reef. Some recent research out of AIMS points to no-take fishing zones as a control against the crown of thorns with no-take zones having only 26% of the number of outbreaks of similar areas outside the no-take zones. Strong argument for strong MPA's in a critical area of coral diversity!

The researcher, Hugh Sweatman, notes that the ecolological link between targeted fish and the crown-of-thorns starfish are unknown. Commercial and recreationally targeted fish are not known to prey on A. planci, but are mostly piscavores. The no-take zones thus likely have fewer smaller fish which prey on the worms and crustaceans which prey on juvenile starfish. Hugh is hoping to discover the exact linkage responsible for the results.

Fortunately, in related news, AIMS also reported that the most recent wave of the crown-of-thorns starfish appeared to be waning with fewer starfish surveyed last year and no new outbreaks last year in Swains Reefs, which has has outbreaks each year since 1985.

Sweatman, H. (2008). No-take reserves protect coral reefs from predatory starfish. Current Biology, 18(14), R598-R599.

Live Nude Bugs!!

Click on photo for more information. Hat tip to iSpiders, also more from Bug Girl here and here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Build Your Own HMS Beagle

This ship is EVERYONE's ship. Make it a reality!

Find out more at The Beagle Project, follow their blog, buy the shirt and donate a couple bucks!

Bombs or Development?

ScienceNow has a preview (arggh!) of a research article from Journal of Coastal Research comparing coral abundance and diversity from areas in the former Vieques Island military range in Puerto Rico, to areas outside the range and areas in nearby marine parks.

Bottom line ?

Though there are areas of extreme impact (bomb craters anyone?) the researchers found the area as a whole was in better shape than the nearby marine park areas. The chief difference appears to be island development - Vieques Island has almost none.

"The take-home message seems to be that the most glaring problems--like bombing--might not be as serious in the long term as the quiet or silent problems, like runoff and development,"
If anyone can find the article online please let me know...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chordata no vertebrata

Meet one remarkable critter, as close to a vertebrate as we can possible get around here, the hagfish!

The theme for LifePhoto this week is slime and what invertebrate could possibly be more slimy that the hagfish? This an interesting creature in its own regard. Sometimes called slime eels, hagfish are certainly not eels. Unlike eels (and all true fish) the hagfish lacks bones, teeth, and jaws. They do have a skull, but it is cartilage instead of bone. Although they are chordates, they have no vertebrae to support the spinal cord. There are 65 identified species of hagfish in the class Myxini. There is still some discussion on where they fit in, but they are now considered to be a sister group to all vertebrates.

Unfortunately, the hagfish catch flack from all sides, even from biological oceanographers! Almost everyone seems to find them disgusting and repulsive. (Could this be construed as more evidence that they are indeed invertebrates?) Yet, they are very cool creatures and important ecologically as part of the cleaning crew. They eat dead fish and animals, usually from the inside out. Hey, and they are edible as well... Hagfish, anyone?

Of course if you are into larval and embryo forms and evolution, the hagfish has a lot to offer, as PZ showed in an awesome post last year.

But the one thing that generally gets hagfish the disgusting label, though I personally think it's damned cool, is the ability to produce vast quantities of slime -- up to 7 litres being produced by an adult in just minutes. The slime comes from glands located in the sides of the hagfish body which secrete mucous and protein threads. Large amounts of seawater are entrained within the matrix of mucous coated threads creating a vast quantity of slime which can distract or possibly suffocate predators.

Classification is for the Pacific Hagfish, featured at the top of the page






Eptatretus stouti (Lockington, 1878)

Time for Some Campaignin'

via Laelaps.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Insect Ejaculate Attracts Parasites x2

ResearchBlogging.orgKevin and I have been anxiously waiting for PNAS to release this one, since we saw it in Nature

A few years ago a Nature Brief Communication described the interesting relationship between the cabbage white butterfly (Pieris brassicae) and the parasitic wasp Trichogramma brassicae. The wasp parasitizes the eggs of the butterfly laid on plants of the cabbage family. The wasp, when given the choice between virgin or mated cabbage white butterfly females, was able to detect and showed a strong preference for the mated females. The authors determined that the wasps used a chemical cue to detect whether the butterfly was virgin or recently mated. The fact that the wasps also chose male butterflies over virgin females gave the team the clue to the source of the chemical cue — the male ejaculate.

The male cabbage white butterflies semen carries a compound, benzyl cyanide, which acts as an anti-aphrodisiac on the females, making them less attractive to other males. The benzyl cyanide turns out to be a component of the male body odor as well. The team tested the compound as the signaling cue for the wasp and found that virgin females treated with benzyl cyanide applied to their wings attracted wasps as strongly as mated females. The same compound the males use to increase the chance of their reproductive success has been co-opted by the wasp as an attractant to hitch a ride on gravid females to the site of egg laying, thus significantly increasing the chance of egg parasitization.

Mated female Pieris brassicae with Trichogramma brassicae wasp (about 0.5mm long) hitching a ride on it's leg.

Additional research from the team published in the Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata in 2005 indicated that oviposition of eggs by the cabbage white butterfly cause chemical changes in the host plant leaf surface, which cause parasitic wasps to linger. However, the effect was only observed three days after the female had laid a clutch of eggs on the brussel sprout plant, when the host eggs are most suitable for parasitism.

Not only does the male butterfly semen directly attract the wasps, but the benzyl cyanide, which is in the semen as an anti-aphrodesiac, is detectable in mated females' accessory gland secretions. Even when the butterfly does not bring the wasp along, it turns out the benzyl cyanide still increases the chance of the eggs becoming parasitized. While the Nature brief communication described the direct attraction of the wasp to the mated butterfly, the groups newest study published this week at PNAS (in early release) by the same team of researchers has expanded on the effects of the male ejaculate as an attractant to the parasitic wasp. This time there is a third participant in the relationship — the Brussel Sprout plant(Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera), for which the benzyl cyanide pheromone initiates the plants defenses.

The team of researchers found that the secretions of mated females caused parasitoid wasps (T. brassicae again) to linger on treated sections of leaf, but the attraction effect was time dependent, with no effect at 24 hours and a strong effect after 72 hours. They isolated the amount of benzyl cyanide in the secretions, then tested the effect of the benzyl cyanide in solution at a similar concentration (1ng), as well as much stronger (100ng and 20µg) concentrations. After 72 hours they found, once again, it was the benzyl cyanide from the males' semen that was the cause, with significant results at 100 and 1ng concentrations and no significant reaction to the 20µg concentration. The research found oviposition and benzyl cyanide induced changes in the plants were strongly correlated and they believe several of the transcriptional changes in the leaf surface, caused by the benzyl cyanide in the semen, are responsible for causing the wasp to linger on the leaf.

Pieris brassicae egg clutch on cabbage plant (left) and Trichogramma brassicae wasp (about 0.5mm long) on P. brassicae egg.

So the male P. brassicae semen fertilizes the eggs, gives nutrients to the female, causes the female to be more unattractive to other males, causes parasitic wasps to be attracted to the mated females and egg clutches, and causes the wasps to linger on the leaves of the plants which eggs are laid on, but only after 72 hours. What a cocktail that is! It seems that for the cabbage white butterfly this anti-aphrodisiac carries a very high cost indeed.

I wonder what new twists can come next from this research line!?

Literature Cited:

Fatouros, N.E., Bukovinszkine'Kiss, G., Kalkers, L.A., Gamborena, R.S., Dicke, M., Hilker, M. (2005). Oviposition-induced plant cues: do they arrest Trichogramma wasps during host location?. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 115(1), 207-215. DOI: 10.1111/j.1570-7458.2005.00245.x

Fatouros, N.E., Huigens, M.E., van Loon, J.J., Dicke, M., Hilker, M. (2005). Chemical communication: Butterfly anti-aphrodisiac lures parasitic wasps. Nature, 433(7027), 704-704. DOI: 10.1038/433704a

Fatouros, N.E., Broekgaarden, C., Bukovinszkine'Kiss, G., van Loon, J.J., Mumm, R., Huigens, M.E., Dicke, M., Hilker, M. (2008). Male-derived butterfly anti-aphrodisiac mediates induced indirect plant defense. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0707809105

Support Sean Tevis for Kansas

Running for Office: It’s Like A Flamewar with a Forum Troll, but with an Eventual Winner

Although Sean Tevis may be running in Kansas, he would be 1 of 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. You know, that legislative body that contributes to passing the laws we are all subject to. Did I mention that he is running against an anti-abortion, anti-evolution, pro-censorship, pro-surveillance, anti-gay incumbent. Worth a $20 spot from me! Lets support a regular guy standing up for what he believes in and put a geek on capitol hill! I'm watching his campaign with great interest. More regular guys need to make a stand like Tevis.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oekologie XVII: Reconciliation Time

Madhusudan Katti has the latest and perhaps greatest Oekologie blog carnival ever. Its HUGE and with such a great and diverse selection. Well done Madhu! Go over and check it out now and poke around his very interesting blog called Reconciliation Ecology. He has a lot intriguing posts on how humans interact with their environment.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I can't remember where I found this unfortunately...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In Russia, Crayfish Eat Crayfish Candy

From Dark Roasted Blend: Russian Vintage Advertising Posters.

Check out this vintage Russian beer bottle! mmmm.... crayfish and beer. Its times like this I wish I were in Sweden. There is probably a crayfish party going on as we speak.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Reefs in Trouble - But it's not too late!

This week has been the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium and I'm sure the threats to coral reefs have been on everyone's minds down in Florida, even as a new report was published online in Science Express on Thursday assessing coral status using IUCN data. The report concludes that fully one third (231 of 704) of hermatypic coral species with data available are threatened (IUCN Red Listed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered). Adding in the 141 near threatened species and over half are under pressure. A dramatic increase since 1998 when it was only 13 species as Threatened and 20 listed as Near Threatened.

Of course that analysis may seem a quite bleak, but Rick MacPherson has been bloggin the Symposium, and he want's to make sure the message from the symposium gets out:

Yes, coral reefs are in trouble. But it's not too late to make a difference. That's the consensus of coral reef scientists and conservations at this week's 11th International Coral Reef Symposium. It begins with spreading this message.

Be sure and grab one of the excellent banners from the Coral Reef Alliance and spread the word. (Notice on our sidebar that they have them with or WITHOUT the boney critters in the way!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Free Access to Internet Resources Helps Conservation

ResearchBlogging.orgOK, a slight digression on the theme today. We are going to talk about a paper involving the endemic flora of Trinidad and Tobago, but we won't discuss plants. Instead, we'll talk about open access to information. In a paper just out in the conservation journal Oryx, Van Den Eynden and colleagues discuss how they evaluated plant endemism, conservation status and reserve effectiveness utilizing only freely available online resources from the internet and local Herbaria. There were several conclusions drawn about plant conservation, but here is a tidbit about how free access to information helped in assessing conservation status.

"Research institutes that use information technology to catalogue and distribute information online promote the advancement of knowledge at a global scale. Using such free-access online resources, and advice offered freely by taxonomy experts, a review of the endemic vascular plant species of Trinidad and Tobago and an assessment of their conservation status was carried out in a relatively short time and without significant cost. This in turn has been made freely available online (Van den Eynden, 2006). Such rapid evaluation of conservation status cannot replace the need for in depth field-based monitoring and assessment but it provides valuable baseline information for the identification and targeting of specific conservation and research needs. The methods used can be applied by most countries for initial assessments of plant extinction risks. Lack of resources or research data is no longer an argument not to do so."
Free information, it werks bitchez.

(Unfortunately their paper was NOT freely accessible, the irony of it all...)
Van den Eynden, V., Oatham, M.P., Johnson, W. (2008). How free access internet resources benefit biodiversity and conservation research: Trinidad and Tobago's endemic plants and their conservation status. Oryx, 42(03) DOI: 10.1017/S0030605308007321

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Larval Munchies

It's time for another Life Photo Meme posting. The theme for this week is garden life... of course, this being TO95%, I need an invert from the garden... so... have a hoverfly larva munching on aphids! I posted an adult hoverfly (maybe Toxomerus marginatus?) for an earlier invert Life Photo posting and thought this would be a good follow-up.

In the previous post, I mentioned adult feeding and the fact that many hoverfly species' larval forms are considered beneficial bugs by gardeners, as they eat aphids and other "pest" insects. Now I can show a hoverfly larva (Epistrophe eligans) hard at work. This time the photo is not my own, but is the work of Michel Vuijlsteke, who has a great Hoverfly collection on Flickr.








Epistrophe elegans

Soil Is Declared a National Resource

Senate Resolution Shines Spotlight On The Importance Of Soils.

This is pretty damn cool and frankly, I need to admit I never thought of soil being a resource before. It makes absolutely perfect sense though.

"This resolution comes at a time when soil is widely undervalued," says Rattan Lal, Ohio State University, SSSA Past President. "Soil, and specifically sound soil management, is essential in our continued quest to increase the production of food, feed, fiber, and fuel while maintaining and improving the environment, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Being the essence of all terrestrial life and ecosystem services, we cannot take the soils for granted. Soil is the basis of survival for present and future generations."

The Senate resolution passed six months after the European Union's Soil Protection Framework was tabled due to irreconcilable differences among Parliament membership.


"My years growing up working on our family farm taught me the value of hard work and the importance of soil," says Senator [Sherrod] Brown [D-OH]. "Often overlooked, healthy soil is vital to maintaining our natural resources and feeding our nation. This resolution is an important first step in cultivating awareness of our nation's soil policies."

Three cheers for soil!

But importantly, protecting and managing soils, protects and manages soil invertebrates!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Snail Chupacabra

Part of Takeshi Yamada's Sideshow World

via Dark Roasted Blend

Linnaeus' Legacy #9: Classifying the Classifiers

Mr. Slybird has the latest and greatest Linneaus' Legacy carnival up at Biological Ramblings. It is an awesome blog carnival highlighting taxonomy, systematics, and biodiversity posts. They are looking for hosts for next month and beyond. Sign up and be a part of history in the making!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cockroach legs, Gecko Feet and robots

Andrew just put up a great video post up of some recent (c. 2006) developments of Stanford's RiSE project. Watching the video I was reminded of the TED talk I watched featuring Robert Full, a Biologist and professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Full is very active in biomechanics and biologically inspired robotics and gets much of his inspiration from invertebrates such as crabs and cockroaches.

He was a speaker at TED in 2002 where he introduced the audience to the concept of self-stabilizing motion without the use of a brain. The stabilization mechanism is a part of the form itself. He shows some of the early collaborations between his lab and Stanford RiSE project on Sprawl and the University of Michigan's RHex robot. Lot's of great video of centipedes, crabs and other arthropods running on treadmills. He also talks about the discovery of gecko stickiness through van der Waals forces (DOI:10.1073/pnas.192252799).

Fast forward to 2005 when he presented at TED again and many of the things he talked about his lab working on in 2002 have been built and a new generation develoed from the lessons learned. From RHex, Sprawl and the gecko inspiration he and his collaborators have developed SpineyBot and FootBot the predecessors to StickyBot. While there is a little bit of overlap (sorta needed for the background), most of his 2005 presentation was new material. More great invert footage, biomechanics footage and a fun presentation.

Carnival of the Blue #14

Blue Economy has the latest edition of the Carnival of the Blue up! Take a look around the Blue Economy website. This is the first time I had seen it and there is a lot of quality posts their! I added them to the RSS feed and look forward to keeping up with them. (p.s.-beware of defacing geoducks...)

Monday, July 7, 2008

It can see!

C. elegans can see! Though lives in the soil, has no eyes and has not been reported to exhibit phototaxis before, in a recent study published online by Nature Neuroscience, researchers discovered that one of biology's favorite model organisms, Caenorhabditis elegans, can detect and react to light as a stimulus. The nematodes are particularly susceptible to UV-A wavelengths and the researches believe that the worm's ability to detect light in that range helps them (and possibly other soil dwelling, eyeless organisms) stay out of the potentially lethal sunlight. Alex Ward, Jie Liu, Zhaoyang Feng and Shawn Xu, all of the Shawn Xu Lab at the University of Michigan went on to identify the photoreceptor neuron cells in the nematodes and the nervous system mechanism by which light reception signal was conducted. Two of the chemical components of the transduction system in C. elegans are also present in the vertebrate eye.

"We're suggesting that the photoreceptor cells we've discovered in C. elegans resemble Darwin's primitive eye---the prototype for all visual systems---and that this system has been preserved over the course of several hundred million years of evolution," Xu said.
More at Nature Neuroscience (subscription required), or at the University of Michigan LSI news releases.

Wasp Cake!

Ever wanted to know how to make your very own Spider Hunting Wasp cake? Beth J at the blog Cloth and Fodder tells all with a "superzesty lemon cake".

Via Boing Boing.

Female Vocalist of the Millenium Goes To...

Alice Russell. (myspace page with more songs)

O H M Y G O D, blew me away. I heard her this morning on Boing Boing TV. Video is embedded below, just fast forward to where the band is playing:

This is the funkyest shit I've heard in A LONG TIME. I was amazed, I had no clue white british girls could do funk and do it so seemlessly. These are originals folks. Her voice is perfect, such control and range! So I downloaded her songs from iTunes. She does an astonishing cover of Seven Nation Army, written originally by The White Stripes. Check out these videos below, turn up your speakers, turn down the lights and chill out.

Alice Russell - Hurry On Home

Alice Russell - Live Recording

What does this have to do with Invertebrates. She sings a song about flies (with mention of spiders)!!! Spineless soul queen mama, I declare thee a Friend of the Invertebrates!

A Fly In The Hand

I catch a fly in my hand
my knuckles go white
I wanted to fly
it didn't help me understand
but it sure felt good to hold

Heavy change is what i need
no bag of silver with a smiling queen
i got a spider in a box you see
someday i'll take a little sum for me

from Rome to my very hand
slipping through like each grain of sand
i open letters to the sound of air
but, aw get away i don't want to share


look for the silver theres a finders fee
and theres an acre for every tree
i wanna go share it around
i drop a penny and i hear no sound

I close the box, hide it away
and put a value on their currency
thats ten to them for every one to me
swollow the key for another day


Its through the nose, this shit is true
My favourite letters, I.O.U
I cut some feathers with some amber beads
i got an empty bag of some whales teeth
Show me the blood to pasify
Its what makes mothers leave to babies cry
I wanna go share all around
I change the time for every pound of pounds

Frog Fishing

Another case of inverts vs. a backboned aquatic beast...
Fishing spiders (Dolomedes genus) hunt for fish and frogs from low branches and overhangs.

More Arachnid dinner tales to come....
Until then I believe this makes it Inverts 13: Verts 4

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Snailbot Comes From the Future to Warn Us


"We thought, 'wouldn't it be kind of cool if we could build a robot with the same versatility as snails?'" Hosoi told CNN. "We like to think of them as nature's all-terrain vehicles."

Hosoi is part of a growing group of engineers around the world who are turning not only to snails but also other animals, like cockroaches and crickets, as a source of biological inspiration for designing new robots capable of going places and accomplishing tasks that traditional droids have not been able to do before."
Read the article to learn more and check out the video!