Archive for the ‘clams’ Category

I can’t believe I missed it this year! I have to forgive myself, though, because I did my first triathlon on Sunday and was pretty focused on surviving that challenge. Pity I completely forgot, though, because the race was in a state park and I indeed could have flipped a rock or two.

You should check out Wandering Weeta’s roundup of blog posts about IRFD, as well as the flickr group.

I’m really happy for the folks that found this slug this year! They think it’s a banana slug, which I’m sad to have never seen despite those years of living in Northern California.

(photo by Susan Thomsen)

Now, for a couple of Friday links.

1. It’s easy to find articles about invasive mollusks, or sad endangered species stories, but it’s heartwarming when you find an article about a snail thought to be extinct that isn’t!

2. I love how different fields in science intersect to do cool work, and here’s a story about studying climate– El Nino and La Nina in particular– by looking at fossil bivalves.

3. Lollusk! This one’s a cutie.

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We’re battening down the hatches on the east coast (feel free to read that as stocking up on beer and poptarts), but I’ve got a few links for you.

1. There have been a few dead giant squid encounters recently, here’s a video of one near the Canaray Islands.

2. I confess to not being a huge fan of Florida, but I’d totally go if it meant I could go to the Shell Museum, which, by the way, is having a very cool amateur photography contest. I’d also go to Florida if it meant I could drink butterbeer at the Harry Potter theme park, or swim with some manatees, for what that’s worth.

3. The lake I grew up swimming in is being attacked by clams.

4. Dolphins use conch shells to catch fish! Super cool.

5. Have you seen the dancing snail video cresting its 15 minutes of internet fame? Clearly someone’s just blowing on the tentacles from off camera, but it’s still kind of cute.

6. Lollusk!

funny pictures - Reducing the drag, one inch at a time.

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Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve got some links for you:

1. This is a totally fascinating article about how a species of all-male clams hijacks genes from other species when they parasitize their eggs. Super freaky stuff.

2. Also, invasive nudibranchs! I love nudibranchs, but these ones are bad news, as they prey on the native nudibranchs in the Bay Area. Nudibranch adundance is correlated with warming. These “killer” nudibranchs have been moving northward over the years, acting as an indicator for climate change.

Phidiana hiltoni Pugnacious Aeolid
(photo: marlin harms)

3. In octopus news, some researchers at Hebrew University have shown that an octopus can use a single arm to complete a complex task. I’m wondering how they got the octopus to refrain from using its other arms… I’m also bemused by the fact the article claims octopuses are “flexible as ballet dancers.” Come on, give the octopus some credit! It doesn’t have bones; surely it’s more flexible than a ballet dancer.

4. And, of course, a lollusk:

funny pictures - RELEASE DA KRACKON!
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So last time I just focused on the chitons, but there were many other very cool creatures to be seen at Golden Gardens during the minus tide on Memorial Day.

One of the very first things we saw as we walked toward where the shore birds were swooping (including one bald eagle!) was a sunflower sea star. I’ve never seen one of these before in the wild, so it was clearly already a good day.


Another thing we saw a lot of were sand collars from moon snails. I’d never seen one of these either, believe it or not. Moon snails are vicious predators, and in fact In one of my chiton photos there’s a moon snail victim in the frame. You can tell from the circular hole drilled into the shell by the moon snail’s radula.


Another extremely common sight were clam siphons sticking up out of the sand. I don’t know what kind of clams they were–maybe butter clams?– but it was funny to see them shoot jets of water into the air every once in a while. There were enough of them on the beach that you didn’t have to wait more than a few seconds to see one in your periferal vision. Kind of like watching a meteor shower.

The undersides of boulders are good places to find things. A bunch of ocher stars are clinging to this one here.


Under this boulder were a bunch of sea cucumbers. I’ve seen sea cucumbers while snorkeling in Alaksa, but the guides dove down to retrieve them from the sea floor. These are the first ever sea cucumbers spotted by mine own eyes. Also a lovely anemone in the photo.


This rock is just covered in anemones. In my mind, one anemone got some delusions of grandeur and just cloned the crap out of itself.


There were also lots of barnacle-encrusted boulders. Here’s one with a passing train in the background.


And to bring things back to mollusks, here’s a little snail clinging onto a boulder. It’s a funny sensation to touch a shell to see if it still has something alive inside and feel it grip onto the rock. This dude wasn’t going to budge.


All in all, a very good outing. I have to keep an eye on the tides here in New York and check out what’s to be seen in my own neck of the woods. A goal of mine is to see a horseshoe crab, another of my favorite invertebrates, along the water under the Brooklyn Bridge.

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OK, so this trip to DC. It was like mollusk overload! Not really, I can’t overload on mollusks. The two big things on my DC itinerary were the zoo and the Natural History Museum. The forecast called for rain on Saturday and sun on Sunday, so that made that decision pretty easy.

The main goal at the Natural History Museum was to see the crocheted coral reef, which was indeed incredible. There were so many different parts to the exhibit, and they had a zoologist and a crocheter on hand to talk to people.

One friend I was with had the interesting if somewhat philosophical question: Is coral rock? The zoologist said no, but clearly at some point coral becomes rock, right? The Guadalupe Mountains in Texas are primarily a coral reef from the Permian Period, for example, and I’m quite sure people would say that’s rock. At what point does coral achieve rockness?

But back to the crochet and the mollusks. I was delighted to see that mollusks were represented among the crocheted organisms.

Like this octopus! Well, unless it’s a jellyfish. I didn’t actually count the tentacles.

I like to think this curly thing on the floor is a nudibranch. But then again it’s just as likely it’s a marine flatworm like Pseudobiceros hancockanus. Hrm.

OK, this one! This one’s definitely a clam. Phew.

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A quick post before I head off to Boston tomorrow for the Mystery Hunt. If you’re unfamiliar with this nerdly ritual, you can read up on wiki or listen to the episode of This American Life that featured Hunt. Then you should delve the archives and solve some puzzles! I wish I knew any puzzles that had anything to do with mollusks off the top of my head, but I don’t.

Back to research: I love the journal PLoS One, mostly just because I have access to the articles without having to borrow someone else’s university access. There have been a couple of cool mollusk ones recently.

* How invasive species, including mollusks, affected the mass extinction in the Late Devonian. I had never thought about invasive species before humans came along facilitate those invasions, so this was an eye opener for me.

* How some burrowing clams that live in the Antarctic region may respond to ocean acidification. Indeed, a more acidic ocean stresses them, but there’s some evidence for a mechanism that will allow them to adapt to future conditions.

And of course, a lollusk:

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During my recent trip to the American Museum of Natural History, I stumbled upon a section I’d never been to before: The Hall of Mollusks! That’s not really what it’s called. I wish I had written down the name of the exhibition, because it was named after a person. Hopefully next time I’m there it’ll still be there, because it’s not labeled on the floor plan and I only found it accidentally while on my way to the restroom. If you’re ever at AMNH, here’s where to go:

This hallway is primarily a collection of shells, but there are also some models of cephalopods, nudibranchs, slugs, and the like. I think my favorite were the painted tree snails, Polymita picta, whose colors are the very definition of whimsy. My photo is awful and blurry, but here’s a much better one:

(photo: Incognita Nom de Plume)

The next section of the hallway was devoted to the mollusks of New York state. I got really excited, because it meant I might be able to identify those two kinds of snails whose shells I find in the Harlem Meer. Here those are once more.

And so here are my best guesses for both of these. Chinese mystery snail (how appropriate!) and Three whorled ram’s horn. Check out the AMNH specimens.

They look pretty good to me, but I’m certainly no expert. In any case, I was completely thrilled to find this corridor and have a tentative answer to my question. Museums for the win!

On to other parts of AMNH. I just can’t stay away from the Hall of Biodiversity.

(There’s nothing here for scale, but I do see people sitting inside this shell quite often.)
This octopus hangs from the ceiling, and I sort of love how glowy this photo is.

Of course, no trip to AMNH is complete without saying hello to the blue whale in the Millstein Hall of Ocean Life. When I first lived in New York City in 2002, the hall was closed for renovation. When they reopened it, there was a lot of fanfare– street banners saying “The whale is back!” and the like. I hadn’t seen the whale since I was but a wee girl on one of my family’s semiannual trips to the city. In my memory it was just the hugest thing I had ever seen. I was hesitant about going back, because it can be really disappointing to see something that awed you as a child and lose that sense of awe when you see that it’s nothing spectacular after all. Still, I couldn’t resist going back; AMNH has been such an incredible place for learning and making memories all my life. So, I went to see the whale. And you know what? It’s still just as awe inspiring as it was when I was 6. That’s how big blue whales are. It’ll be a banner day when I see one that’s not made of plaster.

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Joanna Newsom is one of my favorite musicians out there. She’s got all sorts of things to love: a voice that definitely qualifies as an “acquired taste,” harp skills, an interesting sense of melody and song structure, and poetic lyrics.

My favorite of her albums thus far is her first, and one of my favorite songs on that album is “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie.” Hey, that’s 75% mollusks!

Here’s her singing it on late night TV. I’ve seen her live a few times, and her vowel pronunciation has…evolved, shall we say, since the original 2004 record. It’s evident in this here video.

My favorite line in this song is “Your skin is something that I stir into my tea.” It’s ostensibly gross, but also tender and intimate. Maybe you could say the same things about some mollusks.

Clam! (I met this giant one here at the Seattle Aquarium.)

Crab! (Not a mollusk! But still very cute)



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