Monday, March 31, 2008

RFP: Circus of the Spineless

I'm making one last request for posts for this month's Circus of the Spineless. I should have it up in the next couple of days, but I have relatively few submissions. Please send all your invertebrate-themed writings to me at jim{dot}lemire{at}gmail{dot}com

Please note that Echinoderm posts will be given top priority, followed, in order, by posts on Cnidaria, Ctenophora, Annelida, Arthropoda, Platyhelminthes, Porifera, Nemertea, Chaetognatha, Sipuncula, Bryozoa, Tardigrada, Onychophora, Brachiopoda, any non-Mollusca phylum not already mentioned, and finally, if there is room and I have time for them, the tragically uncool Mollusca.

Also, I noticed over the weekend that at least one CoS submission was delivered to my spam folder. I normally do not check my spam and erase it all unseen, so it is possible that some submissions have been unwittingly deleted. I generally send an email confirming that I received your submission, so if you sent something to me and I did not reply, please resend. Thanks.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Echinoderms are so much cooler than Molluscs (or why Craig McClain is off his rocker)

So, I go away on vacation for a few days and upon my return, as I am catching up on all my favorite blogs, I'm blindsided by the outbreak of war. And not your typical war either, but a vicious series of unprovoked and uncalled for attacks (Ok, maybe it is like a typical war). It seems that Dr. Craig R. McClain of Deep Sea News has thrown down the gauntlet by making a series of scathing posts concerning his erroneous belief that molluscs are somehow cooler than echinoderms. Now I just cannot stand for this. Especially after reading about how the molluscan radula is deemed one of the reasons this phylum is so cool compared to the echinodermata. I'm sorry, but Craig must not be thinking clearly. The radula? A spiky ribbon makes molluscs cool? Please. Don't waste your time, Craig. If we're going to be comparing feeding apparatuses (apparati?) of molluscs and echinoderms, your precious mantle-wearing protostomes don't stand a chance. Echinoderms utilize one of, if not the, coolest feeding mechanism in the animal kingdom - Aristotle's Lantern.

First off, few structures in living organisms have as cool a name as "Aristotle's Lantern" - this structure was described by Aristotle in his Historia Animalium written around 343 BC. Second off, it is an "architectural marvel"1, consisting of a complex of "50 skeletal elements and worked by 60 muscles"2. The structure contains a set of five calcareous pyramids, each with a canal where a long, sharp tooth lies and protrudes outside the oral cavity. The teeth can be protracted and spread apart through the constriction muscles that push the entire lantern orally. Retraction of the "jaw" involves another set of muscles. Yet other muscles can produce swivel and rocking movement of the teeth and lantern apparatus. I'm sorry, but a radula cannot compete with this.

It is hard to comprehend the complexity and coolness of Aristotle's Lantern without seeing one in person, but here are a few images to help you:

Sorry Craig, but you've got no case here. Get that weak-ass radula crap outa my house.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Weekly Urchin: Friday Dial Stopper edition

Back from the D.R. - great time - photos to come (hopefully) - battling the flu now unfortunately. More next week. Until then, enjoy this combo urchin-dial stopper offering. And no, that is not me with a bad haircut.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Packing for the D.R.

Do I need anything else?

Friday Dial Stopper - early St. Patrick's Day edition

Since I won't be near a computer on Monday, here's a duo of dial stoppers in the spirit of the season. Have a happy and safe St. Patty's Day - even if you're not Irish. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum whiskey.

"Salty Dog" by Flogging Molly

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Weekly Urchin - Dominican Republic edition

In anticipation of Linda's and my vacation to the Dominican Republic in a few days, I give you Diadema antillarum, the long-spined sea urchin. This urchin is a keystone herbivore on coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and one I hope to see during our vacation.

This particular species was once a dominant part of coral reef communities. However, a catastrophic die-off in 1983, the result of an unknown pathogen, resulted in an over 97% mortality rate Caribbean-wide - the most severe mass mortality ever recorded for a marine organism. The disappearance of D. antillarum from the reefs lead to the proliferation of macro-algae which quickly overtook the coral reefs. This unchecked algal cover resulted in coral die-off and prevented new coral recruitment. The result was an overall deterioration of reef communities. Although there have been reports of localized D. antillarum and subsequent coral reef recovery (Edmunds and Carpenter 2001), populations remain low even decades later (Lessios 2005 - pdf). Continued research and coral reef restoration using reared and/or transplanted D. antillarum are currently underway.

Changing tacks a bit, below is a stunning video of D. antillarum development from The video is a bit long, but it comes complete with a soundtrack by Enya (I believe) and contains amazing footage of a metamorphosing larva - if nothing else, you need to watch for this (about a third to half-way in).

How many legs does an insect have?

Not a question one would think one would have to ask an undergraduate. Especially, an undergraduate majoring in biology.

However, if such a question does need to be asked, one would like to think that the answer would not be:
"Eight? More than eight? I don't know."

EIGHT!?!?!?!?!?! MORE THAN EIGHT?!?!?!?!?! I DON'T KNOW!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I'm pretty sure my 4-year old knows this answer. And if he doesn't, my 7-year old certainly does.

Hell in a hand basket, people. Hell in a hand basket.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Wolves loose in Massachusetts?

This is some very exciting news. After over 150 years of being absent from the state, a wild gray eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon*) has been positively ID'ed in western Mass. Unfortunately, it was also shot dead after MassWildlife officials told the farmer whose livestock was being eaten that the culprit was a dog and that the "dog" could be legally shot if it was ever seen again on his property. Well, sure enough, the farmer saw the "dog" and killed it. Only upon inspection of the dead dog wolf did they realize what they had. DNA tests done by the US Fish and Wildlife Service at their Forensics Lab confirmed the identification. (BTW, I always thought that the USFWS Forensics Lab would be a cool place to work). Of course, now there are numerous questions about where this animal came from and if this means that the gray eastern wolf is naturally recolonizing its former New England range.

Personally, I think this is outstanding news - native species, reclaiming their native territories, on their own. The presence of this wolf in western Mass suggests that there are viable green corridors connecting the state with healthy wolf packs in Canada. I'm not sure this state is ready for the reappearance of wolves - I'm sure no one has been discussing the possibility much after over a century of absence - but hopefully, the next wolf won't be so unceremoniously shot.

Speaking of being unceremoniously shot, I find it odd that neither MassWildlife's nor the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game's website has any mention of this event. Clearly, they can't be too thrilled about the wolf being killed, but wouldn't you think the presence of the first wolf in Massachusetts in 160 years would be heralded by the state's wildlife conservation agencies?

*Recent genetic evidence suggests that the eastern wolf is a distinct species and neither a subspecies of the gray wolf, Canis lupus, nor a gray wolf-coyote hybrid as once proposed

Carnival overload

I may have gotten myself in over my head. I signed up to host the March edition of the Circus of the Spineless and the April edition of Linnaeus' Legacy. Two carnivals in two months. No problem right? So I thought.

However, I did not do my homework. It seems that Circus of the Spineless comes out at the end of the month and Linnaeus' Legacy comes out at the beginning of the month. So, instead of hosting two carnivals a month apart, I will be hosting two carnivals days apart. This didn't hit me until I started getting emails for both carnivals. Oops. The killer too is that I remember specifically asking not to host the March edition of LL so as not to double up.

Well, the carnival(s) must go on, so send in those posts - all things invertebrate for Circus of the Spineless and all things taxonomic for Linnaeus' Legacy. And for all you invertebrate taxonomists out there, you may pick either or both (but not neither). I'll keep up as best I can.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Dial Stopper

Slow blogging week - I don't think I've sat at my computer for more than a few minutes at a time, and even then it was just to enter grades or type something up for class. But I couldn't let the week go by without the Friday Dial Stopper...

Not sure if this one has the stuff to stay a dial stopper for the long haul, but it's still new enough to be one now. (apologies for the relatively poor feed on the video - it's the best original video I could find to embed - YouTube's version has had its embedding capability "disabled by request")

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Can we just secede already?

Reason 1,332 why I'm proud to be a New Englander

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I've always wanted one of these

Michael over at The Dispersal of Darwin has graciously bestowed upon this humble (yeah right!) blog the award of excellence. Thank you, Michael. I am honored.

The acceptance of this award seems to stipulate that I nominate other blogs for this award. Well, the number of blogs I read is relatively small. Those that I deem excellent and thus read daily (if not hourly) are those that I have added to the right over there under "Me Bloggin' Mates". So, if your blog appears there, consider yourself nominated for blogging excellence. Occasionally, I add new blogs to my blogroll, so if your name is added in the future, please also consider yourself nominated for this prestigious award.

Are you going to argue with Jack Nicholson?

This is simply brilliant.