Archive for the ‘mollusks i’ve met’ Category

Good thing my cell phone has a camera, lest I miss an opportunity to spot a mollusk in the wild!

Yes, that’s a giant squid graphic on the side of a U-Haul, which isn’t quite as exciting as seeing a real live something. But then again, I live in New York City, I have to work with what I got, otherwise it’ll be all rats, pigeons, and cockroaches, all the time. And I’ll point out the obvious: none of those are mollusks.

I love the Giant Squid blurb on this graphic:

The first recorded encounter with the world’s largest invertebrate took place off the coast of Newfoundland. What secrets of the deep were revealed with the discovery of the giant squid?

While the question itself is a little silly, I love that it’s trying to pique curiosity. I’ve been seeing their Red Panda graphic a lot lately (I probably just notice it in particular because OMG, adorable red panda!!!!), so I actually checked out their website for more information. And there’s really a lot of fun stuff to explore, largely about animals and fossils in different states and Canadian provinces, though also New Mexico’s about the Roswell UFO incident (that one’s cheeky).

I say good going, U-Haul! I hope other curious people are seeing these graphics and wondering about the world around them. My environment is so text-dense, mostly with incredibly obnoxious advertising, so it’s great to see that some fun science has wriggled its way in there as well.

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I was at the New York Aquarium this weekend, and a marine gastropod of some sort treated me to this little show. I’m linking to the video because embedding doesn’t seem to work. Hrm.

That bit of anatomy, um, undulating is the radula, a toothy tonguish apparatus that mollusks use to eat. I hope there was some good grazing on the side of the tank there.

The cool thing about the radula is it’s unique to mollusks. When a fossil of Kimberella, an Ediacaran organism (that’s Precambrian!) showed evidence of a radula in associated scratch marks, that made folks change their mind about whether it was a jellyfish as originally supposed. It’s not definitely classified as a mollusk, but it is at least a bilaterian.

(photo credit: Aleksey Nagovitsyn)
You can’t see evidence of a radula in this photo (as far as I know), but I love a good fossil.

The uncool thing about this video is that I don’t know what species that little dude, lady, or dudelady is. This is a frustration of mine at aquariums. Unless the purpose of the tank is to showcase a particular invertebrate, they tend to omit any information at all about them. There is usually signage IDing all the fish (I call vertebrate chauvinism!). While I understand that most of the people visiting aren’t particularly interested in the particulars of species names, and also that a litany of latinate names can be offputting and counterproductive as a means of getting people interested in science, I wish there was some way to get that info if desired– a panel one had to lift, a link to a website, something.

The best story I saw in the news lately about fossil markings being evidence of other interesting things is no doubt the fossil evidence of zombie ants because they left telltale toothmark death grips on fossilized plant leaves. Too terrifying for words.

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I’m striving to take my own photos of mollusks I see in the wild. Sadly, I’m no great photographer, but I’ll do my best. This first one is moreover an extra bad photo, since it was taken with a disposable underwater camera, and I didn’t read until after the snorkeling trip that the camera was meant to be used from at least three feet away from the subject, but it was one of my more exciting mollusk finds, which is why I can’t resist posting about it. Here is the photo I took of Hermissenda crassicornis, a nudibranch that lives in the Eastern Pacific.


Can you see the nudibranch? It’s the orangeish spot with the two little tentacles near the bottom of that spotty piece of kelp, and there’s another just above it. I saw this while snorkeling in Ketchikan, Alaska, which was really the highlight of my recent trip there. Hard to pick a highlight, because orcas were seen doing some Shamu-level stunts, but I’d never been snorkeling before and it was a really special place to start. There were many other mollusks seen that morning, including limpets and lots of bivalves. Other invertebrates included sea stars, urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs (including the hermit variety!), jellies, and more. Here’s a better picture of this nudibranch, taken by Mila Zinkova.

They are quite aggressive, eating anemones, sea squirts, and even smaller members of their own species. Cannibalism, yikes! Still, I was thrilled to see this nudibranch in Alaska (I was hoping for an octopus but I knew that was near impossible), and I’m going to adapt the pattern for a knit nudibranch to match this particular species as my next mollusk knitting project.

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