Archive for February, 2011

Glass Mollusks

Last year, I went to Northampton, MA, around Halloween. I’ll be honest, I went there because they have perhaps the #1 best yarn store in the country. Even if you aren’t a yarn enthusiast, it’s also just a fun place to wander around, window shop, stop in a cafe for a cup of coffee, etc. Speaking of coffee, one of my favorite things in Northampton is this sign at the parking garage:
(photo: Quinn Dombrowski)

In one of the stores I wandered into, there were these really cool blown glass pieces that featured various sea creatures including some mollusks:

These are all pieces that are collaborations between local glass artists Joe Peters and Peter Mullers. You can check out the website about their collaboration for more of their work. It’s really cool.

This is contemporary artwork, of course, but you may know that glass mollusks are something of an artistic tradition. Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka were 19th century glass artists who made exquisite models of marine invertebrates for educational institutions, back before well-preserved specimens were available.

Seriously, just check out this dissected cuttlefish. It’s made of glass.

This is something you can see if you happen to be in Galway, Ireland, where the National University of Ireland has a Zoology and Marine Biology Museum. Cornell University, my alma mater (Go Big Red!), also has a collection in the Mann Library.

Of course, if you’re interested in the work of the Blaschkas, you simply must to go to the Harvard Natural History Museum. They don’t have glass mollusks there, but they do have the most incredible collection of glass plants and flowers. You step into that room in the museum, and it’s just cases and cases of specimens.
Glass Flower Case
(photo: Curious Expeditions)

Then you look at them up close, and thinking that these things are made by hand, and out of glass, and your mind is just blown by pure craftsmanship.
Glass Flowers: Pink Cactus Bloom
(photo: Curious Expeditions)

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Friday is for linking

Time for some Friday linkage!

1. First things first, it’s Octopus Week at the Seattle Aquarium! I’ve been to this aquarium, and they had the busiest octopuses I’ve ever seen, so I’m guessing they’re going to have a great week.

2. In continuing cephalopod news, I’m rather fond of this large knitted squid made from shopping bags. I especially love the photos of it cozying up to a Darwin statue.

3. Moving onto some snail finds, if you’re in Utah, you can hear a talk about the development of powerful pain drugs derived from cone snail venom. Cool stuff! Here’s a cool photo of a textile cone snail, which I like because they’re especially mathy.
Textile Cone
(photo: Richard Ling)

4. Snails, they’re just so useful. I found this BBC news slideshow of snails acting as proverbial canaries in the coal mine for a St. Petersburg waste incinerator kind of hilarious. Why did they pick snails? Well, terrestrial snails have a lung, and they don’t get fussed about all the sensors.

5. Snail’s, they’re also so cute. This week New Scientist had a great story about new evidence that snails sleep. Seriously, that’s just really cute.

You know what else are cute? Lollusks.
funny pictures
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

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Colossal squid exhibition!

If you should find yourself on the North Island of New Zealand, be sure to go to Te Papa, the museum of New Zealand. Right now they have an exhibition devoted to the enigmatic colossal squid! There’s lots of cool stuff on their website about the exhibition, and the build-a-squid applet is especially cute. Here’s a hard-won photo of my own elusive squid!

I’ve had the great fortune to have visited Te Papa a few years ago when I was in New Zealand. Sadly, the squid was not on display then, but I can show you a couple other cool features of the museum.

They have cool art installations. I don’t remember the artist for this one, sadly.
They have a hilarious exhibition devoted to the kākāpō, the world’s largest parrot and the bird that seems to thwart all attempts by humans to save it from extinction–that’s not entirely true, as their population is in fact steadily growing. Anyway, here’s a (dark, sorry!) photo of the sperm collecting helmet folks wore when they noticed the kākāpō was fond of mating with people’s heads as well as the robo-kākāpō they tried to get the real kākāpō to mate with. Failures, the both of them. The most effective thing to collect sperm, they’ve found, is inserting an electrode into the bird’s cloaca, and you can probably suss out the rest of that story.

Many people equate New Zealand with sheep, and indeed I did see a lot of sheep while I was there. At Te Papa you can virtually shear a sheep. I’m guessing it’s not anywhere as hard as the real thing, and it’s still really hard!
Bringing this back to mollusks, New Zealand’s other mollusk of note is the Pāua, which is the name for three abalone species native to New Zealand. Pāua are both good eatin’ and the iridescent insides of the shells are used for all sorts of traditional and contemporary arts and crafts.
Here’s the inside of the shell.
Paua Shell
(photo: JamieLawrie)
And here’s a piece of jewelry I very much covet with a Pāua cabochon.
Paua Shell Cuff Bracelet
(photo and jewelry: NoPunyNerd)

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Welcome to Circus of the Spineless #59! The theme of this month’s carnival is the internet, and how I seem to spend my time on it when not blogging about mollusks. I’ve enumerated the posts in this carnival to help you distinguish them from all my other blather.


It’s no secret to anyone who knows me in real life that I spend a lot of time with yarn. Knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, and various other yarny esoterica are big fun for me. As it were, the internet and all things yarn have a deep and abiding love for one another (point of fact: the knitting and crocheting social networking site, ravelry, has over a million members!). One of my favorite crochet projects, one that has been exhibited virtually at the Institute for Figuring lies at the fascinating nexus of crochet, mathematics, and ocean science: the hyperbolic crochet coral reef. Check it out.

You can even catch it in real life right now at the Smithsonian.

1. Speaking of coral reefs, this sobering post at Deep Sea News is an important one to read. Coral reef health is a dire situation, and people making environmental policy need to take the data in this post to heart.

Youtube videos

Who doesn’t love a good youtube session? When I’m catching up with friends, laptops or smartphones inevitably emerge to show the latest awesome/hilarious video that somebody hasn’t seen yet. Animal combat is certainly a theme, whether it’s the famed Battle at Kruger, the Predator-scored catfight, or puff adder vs honey badger, but you know, I really love youtube videos about worms.

Of course, the video about the parasitic worm that infects snails in a rather gruesome way is a perennial favorite.

And I think this video of battling worms (it’s a bit like worm bear-baiting?) rivals the aforementioned Battle at Kruger in sheer brutality.

But yes, worms!

2. Over at Real Monstrosities, here’s a great post to help you sort out the world of worms. Some of them are so pretty in a nudibranch-like way! Whoops, is my bias showing?

Captioned Macros

Inevitably, all roads lead to icanhascheezburger and its ilk, the world of lolcats and other lolanimals. They seem to have become a form of communication unto themselves, complete with their own grammar. Turns out that some of my favorite captioned animal photos are arthropods. Just look at these isopods!

But yes, arthropods. A fecund topic for invertebrate bloggers.

3. Kevin at Deep Sea news has a great post about barnacle evolution. If those ancient barnacles could have done us the favor of allowing their soft parts to fossilize, these questions would be so much easier to answer.

4. Following that, if you’re interested in reading about the sex lives of barnacles, you’re in luck! Beasts in a Populous City has just the post for you.

5. Arthropods can be very photogenic. Stephanie Susan Smith captured a shot of one of the few spiders I can honestly say I’m afraid of, the black widow, at her photo blog.

6. Wanderin’ Weeta took the cutest photo of a globular springtail. Fun fact about springtails: they are hexapods that aren’t insects! Her photo is so cute, it’s almost begging for a caption.

Similar to this classic perhaps?

Wait, back to the topic at hand.

7. I love poetry as much as I love science, and they make such a great combination. Jade Blackwater pointed me to this poem about ants at The Pedestal magazine.

8. Ted C. MacRae blogs about a very formidable insect, the red-eyed devil, at Beetles in the Bush. The photography in this post is not to be missed if you like seriously grumpy-looking insects or that scene in Jurassic Park with the fringy-necked dinosaur.

9. NeuroDojo has two posts for us to enjoy: one is about the long-tongued nectar thief, which is a great post about a mistaken case of coevolution.

10. The other from NeuroDojo is a guest post commenting on Blackawton Bees, the paper authored by 25 children at the Blackawton Public School.

11. Dave Hubble blogs about a mystery beetle and the process of identifying it. Now I really want to do insect dissections with the students I work with.

12. The last of our arthropod roundup, but certainly not the least, is this post by Kevin at Deep Sea News directing us to the instructions for making a shrimp out of a bendy straw. Delightfully anatomical!

Shrimp, you say?

Baby animals

Part of me never abandoned the nine-year-old version of myself, that little girl who loved Lisa Frank trapper keepers emblazoned with psychedelic baby seals shooting through outer space on rainbows. In my adult life, this manifests as time spent on the internet looking at cute pictures of baby animals. Zooborns, cute overload, daily squee, they all provide the fix. But the best of all, which is why of course I saved them for last, are the baby mollusks.

Isn’t it just the cutest. Oh mollusks. There’s so much to talk about.

1. Danna at Squid a Day has this post that draws our attention to the new EU law requiring cephalopod research to adhere to the same laws as vertebrate research. Fascinating that all the research on cephalopod awesomeness (“intelligence” is really too loaded a word) is clearly having an effect on policy.

2. At Island Nature, we have a fantastic exploration–and gorgeous photography– of mudflat snail shells.

Snails! You know what are really cute? Baby snails.


So there you have it! Thanks to everyone who submitted, and thank you, dear readers, for indulging me as I share my internetting habits with you. Big thanks to Kevin Zelnio for keeping the circus traveling and to all of my fellow hosts, past and future. The next host of the carnival is Bug Girl, so you can send your submissions to her starting…now! If you want to email Bug_Girl, her email address is membracid, and it’s a gmail.com account.

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