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Archive for the ‘cephalopod overlords’ Category

So if you read boingboing, this week you saw the special feature on Everybody Loves Cephalopods, which includes a great video on cephalopod neurobiology and behavior. If you didn’t catch it, you can enjoy it now!

What follows:
1. Cephalopods are awesome.
2. My last post was on mollusks inspiring art.
3. This week I also came across this video of an octopus coming out of a beer bottle:

The culmination of all of this stuff? This print I just found by artist Sally Harless, whose internet home is sadlyharmless.

You can buy a print from her etsy store! I came across this because she has another print of a scarf being knit by two narwhals acting as the needles. She has yet another print of musk oxen, yet another of my favorite animals, so I might just need a tryptic of her work in my apartment…

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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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Flying squids: It’s not a metaphor or literary device of any sort. Well, maybe a slight misnomer.

The story itself isn’t new, there was a 2004 study about squid that take to the air. It came up on Scientific American recently because of the new photographic evidence, seen above, taken by amateur photographer Bob Hulse from a cruise ship off the coast of Brazil (now I’m feeling really inadequate that I just saw mammals and birds from the ship on my recent Alaskan cruise).

Flight is fascinating, obviously, and also clearly a really good idea. There are really only four true fliers (to my knowledge): birds, bats, insects, and pterosaurs. According to the Scientific American article, the 2004 study alleges the squid are flying rather than gliding, but I am dubious. Are they really providing thrust with their fins? I will chalk it up to scientists who get a little too close to their subject and want to believe things the evidence is not yet strong for (see also primate sign language). All sorts of other animals are not true fliers but can glide, parachute, or, perhaps most impressively, jet propel themselves out of the water like squid alone can do. Color me impressed. Squids are the only non-arthropod invertebrate who are aspiring aviators.

Some other notable not quite fliers:

Flying lemurs (They neither fly nor are they lemurs. Discuss.)

Draco lizards. Fun fact: that bit of anatomy there is called a dewlap.

Flying fish. Fun fact: flying fish can do multiple glides because they can slap their tails on the water to give them another boost of height. If only those pesky gills weren’t in the way!

I really do have a soft spot for illustrations of animals, if you couldn’t tell.

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A cool story recently surfaced about octopuses that have venom that works at 0°C, far too cold for typical venoms. The results of the study about these octopodes were published in a journal called Toxicon, which is a pretty awesome journal name if I do say so myself. Another fun thing about this research is that it brought four new octopus species into our mollusk menagerie. I hope they get some really sinister species names.

I did an image search to see what comes up for “sinister octopus.” Really, I should have been able to guess.

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The BBC sure loves cephalopod stories! This week we’ve got one about Humboldt Squid. The authors of the paper in Progress in Oceanography managed to capture 71 squids and subject them to different levels of oxygen to see how they do. Turns out they can slow down their metabolism in a low oxygen environment, stay out of the reach of predators, and just chill until they are ready to hunt again.

That’s right, they can be patient. And wait for the right moment to take over mankind.

Here’s a Humboldt squid in a staring contest with the ROV Tiburon that took the photo:

I think the squid is winning.

This story reminds me of two other favorite animal behaviors of mine.

One is the Andean Hillstar, a hummingbird that hibernates every night because yeah, it’s cold in the Andes. Sad or cute? I learned about this bird from the most excellent documentary series Life of Birds, with David Attenborough, who’s also known as the guy whose voice gets replaced by someone else, say Oprah or Sigourney Weaver, when his documentaries get aired in the United States. There’s a video about the Andean Hillstar on the BBC website that unfortunately I cannot view but maybe some of you can. But here’s a photo of one of these little beauties, taken by Tor Egil Høgsås.

The second is the tardigrade, which is probably my favorite non-mollusk invertebrate. These ridiculously cute little creatures go into a dormant state known as a tun whenever life gets to be too much for them. You know, like when they’re exposed to the vacuum and radiation of outer space.

The Goldstein Lab at UNC Chapel Hill take the best pictures of these jolly beasties.

Metabolisms! Weird fun stuff.

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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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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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