Archive for December, 2010

It’s been a while since there have been any mollusk mathematics around these parts, and the New York Times treated us to some the other day. There’s also some fun word play in there too, including that I forgot that in some cases you can also plurlalize -us words with -era, like genera and opera!

The new thing I learned from reading this article, apart from the fact that probability is not my mathematical forte, is that all octopuses (and cuttlefish) are poisonous. I just spoiled you on the answer to one of the questions, but how cool, and that result is fairly recent news. It’s still true that only the blue ringed octopus is a danger to humans– from poison anyway–wrestle an octopus at your own risk!

(This is a print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from c. 1839. See many more at The Kuniyoshi Project!)

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1. My husband, a mollusk enthusiast himself, sent me an email the other day with the title “our cephalopod overlords” and this link to the Daily Mail article about flying squid. Check out these photos.

My first reaction?

Should I be concerned that my husband is reading tabloid garbage like the Daily Mail?

2. Anyway, in actual science news, I absolutely love this story I read on Not Exactly Rocket Science about a marine snail who keeps its bioluminescent organs inside the shell, and when they’re active, the whole shell, which has incredible diffusing properties, glows. Check it out!

3. Sinister! In this study, left-coiling snails survive snake attacks better than right-coiling snails. You can check out the videos of snails surviving and not surviving snake attacks. I certainly wonder if this has to do with some sort of ocular dominance on the part of the snake and how it approaches snails to attack. In any case, this is great fodder for people who like to defend left handedness.

4. And, because I love them, another lollusk.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

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Mollusks and fashion

I’ve been thinking about chitons lately, as they are such interesting, different, and unappreciated mollusks. I mean, check this one out!

Loki's Chiton
(photo: ken-ichi)

This was was seen at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, my frequently mentioned mollusk viewing spot of choice. I have some yarn in just about these colors– I think I need to knit me some chiton-inspired socks!

The coolest thing I read in the chiton wiki article is that their teeth are coated with magnetite, which is very unique among animals. Biological occurences of magnetite are often associated with an ability to sense magnetic fields, possibly for navigation purposes (bees and pigeons have magnetite in their brains, for example). Chitons do display homing abilities, so the presence of magnetite is indeed intriguing, but there are certainly mollusks without magnetite in their teeth (limpets, for one) who can also find their groove, so to speak, so it’s an interesting area of study.

Then I got caught up on the etymology of the word. From wiki,

The word chiton appears in the Iliad.[5] In Greek, khitōn could be used to refer not only to a cloth garment covering the skin, but also to other sorts of covering such as a coat of mail, a membrane around a bodily organ, or the pod containing seeds. The Greek word is an adoption from a Central Semitic source (most probably Northwest Semitic, the exact source language not being known) and is akin to the Hebrew word kětōnet ‘tunic’. The Central Semitic word that was the source of Greek khitōn was itself adapted from the Akkadian word kitû, meaning ‘flax’ and ‘linen’. This Akkadian word in turn comes from Sumerian gada (which has the variant gida). The Latin word tunica, source of the English word tunic, is taken from a Phoenician word of kindred origin.

Complicated. That’s the etymology of the Greek costume chiton, which is just a rectangle of fabric arranged into clothing like so

The etymology of the mollusk chiton adds in

The English name “chiton” originates from the Latin word chitōn, which means “mollusc”, and in turn is derived from the Greek word “khitōn”, meaning tunic (which also is the source of the word chitin).

I’m wondering if the when Latin took the word chiton meaning “tunic” and co-opted it for meaning “mollusk,” if they meant the “coat of mail” kind of covering, which makes sense for our mollusk friend the chiton, or the cloth garment/membrane around an organ sense of the word, which would make more sense for something like a nudibranch perhaps. And curious how it all seems to go back to flax and linen, which certainly have nothing to do with coats of mail. Curious!

My next molluscan fashion moment happened last night, when I was jogging in Central Park listening to cheesy pop music. In the song “American Boy,” by Estelle, there’s a lyric that says

Dress in all your fancy clothes,
Sneaker’s looking fresh to death I’m lovin’ those shell toes.
Walkin’ that walk,
Talk that slick talk,
I’m likin’ this American boy, American boy.

It just so happened I was also wearing a shirt from a Run-D.M.C. concert while I was jogging and it was like a double whammy evoking the image of these iconic shoes.

Adidas Superstars, that is. Here’s how Run-D.M.C. rocked them

Here the mollusks clearly were the inspiration for the fashion, right?
Vieira-do-Mediterrâneo // Great Mediterranean Scallop (Pecten jacobaeus)
(photo: Valter Jacinto)

Sometimes the mollusks inpire the fashion, and sometimes the fashion inspires the mollusks, it seems.

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Friday Mollusk Linkage!

I have been very remiss in keeping both you and me up to date with mollusk news, so here are a few good things going on in the world.

1. A new glow in the dark squid species discovered! This one’s 70cm long and is bright red with its light producing organs. That’s simply incredible.

2. Speaking of glow in the dark squid, the simply adorable Hawaiian bobtail squid is featured in this here video, being cute and glowy.

3. Thanks to ROVs visiting whale carcasses on the ocean floor, some new species of bone eating snails have been discovered. Whether or not they use symbiotic bacteria to digest bone is an open (and very cool) question.

4. On the design side of things, how about a prosthetic limb modeled after a tentacle? This seems a little creepy, but not really any moreso than a hook, and certainly quite functional!

5. And now, a lollusk! My all time favorite, in fact.

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I made a mollusk! Sorta, kinda. If you consider Cthulhu a molluskoid, certainly the Ood has to be one too. After all, that Dr. Who wiki page refers to the Ood’s coleoid tentacles, and that seems official enough for me!

I’m not actually a particular Dr. Who fan, but my friend is, so I made her this, for some fancy wall art:

You might kinda have to squint your eyes to see the character, but here it is in screencap form.

Tentacular! It didn’t occur to me until I was finished making this beast that it had anything to do with mollusks, because of course it’s only fictionally molluscan. But fictional mollusks need love too!

Here’s a clip of it in action:

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Holiday Mollusks

So it’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas us upon us, whether we celebrate it or not. I was reflecting whether mollusks play into how my family celebrates the holidays at all.

Perhaps if you’re New Englandy, you might have oyster stuffing with a holiday meal. Alas, no mollusks in our stuffing.

So where are the mollusks in our holidays?

That’s right. When this guy shows up, it’s about to get real.

If you haven’t played Mario Kart, my deepest sympathies, but basically this little squid is called a Blooper, and it’s an attack you can perform on other players to do this to their screens.

It’s actually a very mild attack, but it’s cute nonetheless. We played on Thanksgiving, can’t wait to play again at Christmas. Maybe some of you have mollusk-related holiday traditions?

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