Archive for July, 2010

This story about an octopus returning to the wild after a stint in a Marine Science center is touching. And it contains some interspecies snorgling.

You know about interspecies snorgling right? Here’s an example from Larry Ferante’s flickr:
Animal friendship 2

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Paul the octopus is retiring after his last correct prediction, that Spain would win the world cup. It’s exceeding unlikely he’ll be alive at the next World Cup anyway, so it’s probably a wise decision on Paul’s part.

The odds of him correctly picking the outcomes of 8 world cup matches are obviously quite low (1/256), but what I love about the internet is that plenty of people on his wiki page have their thoughts on potential biases. 1/256 is about 0.4%, which actually isn’t that small. It’s between 2 and 3 standard deviations away from the peak of a Gaussian.

Word on the street is physicists like their data to be in the five standard deviation range portion of that graph before they’ll call it a finding, so I’m obviously speaking tongue-in-cheek when I talk about our new cephalopod overlords.

I’m also wondering how many other less successful prognosticating animals were out there. I’d bet Paul made the news because ~255 other animals didn’t. I’m glad it was a mollusk of course, but I also would have loved it if the world had fallen for Darlene the Tapir or some other equally awesome animal. And yes, this may be just an excuse to add a photo of a baby tapir, because I love them so.

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In the Journal of Molluscan Studies, there’s an article about the penis of a species of squid, Onykia ingens. It’s, um, long. Like, as long as the entire animal. Why so long? Shallow water cephalopods have short penises but use an arm to hand the sperm over to the females, but the deep sea squids prefer to inject the sperm directly. No one had figured out exactly how this occured until a recently caught squid obliged researchers by unfurling himself. Read more about it on BBC news.

Here’s a drawing of our friend O. ingens. Check out the article for the money shot…

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On The Shell and Mantle, I’m hoping to feature stories in the news about weird stuff octopuses do in captivity. I don’t actually think octopuses will take over the world–those pesky endocrine secretions that kill them after mating, and all– but I find it darling how they try. I’ll certainly feature some throwbacks to my favorite stories in past years as well.

Onto the main event! The World Cup, naturally. It’s a big deal, and stuff. I cop to being a philistine who finds televised soccer unwatchable, but the drone of the vuvuzela (In case you can’t get enough, here you go) is omnipresent these days. What could make the World Cup more interesting? A supposedly psychic octopus, of course! Paul, from the Sealife Aquarium in Oberhausen, will predict the outcome of soccer games by choosing a mussel in a box marked with a country’s flag on it. He’s not always right (surprise!) but he did predict Spain’s win over Germany in the semifinals.

See him in action!

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Why a mollusk blog?

I’m really excited to be starting this project, for a few reasons. I think it’ll be an interesting way for me to seek out the things that interest me, which includes pure science, but also art, music, film, literature, and craft. Mollusks inspire a lot of people, it turns out. Let’s get started.

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