Friday links

It’s that time again:

1. Did you see the incredibly gorgeous squid photography in this boingboing post? If not, please click the link immediatamente.

2. I first saw this video on Deep Sea News. Squideo!

3. io9 has a hilarious post about snails who migrate via avian digestive tract. That’s one way to do it, I guess.

4. I was in my local diving emporium yesterday and they had a very lovely marine life video playing while I was waiting for my stuff to arrive on the magical conveyor belt coming out of the wall. One of the featured animals was the hooded nudibranch. Watching the video, I was all, where are the nudibranchs? Are they under those jellies? Turns out they were those jellies.

Hooded Nudibranchs
(photo: Vlad Karpinsky)

5. Why was I at my local diving emporium? Because this weekend I’m headed out of town, to Maui! I will of course report back with all mollusk findings. I don’t know that I’ll get to see any, but Hawaii has very cool land snails, many of which are endemic. They also have invasive snails. I’ll tell you about what I see regardless. Wish me mollusk (and sea turtle) spotting luck!

6. Have I used this lollusk? I lose track. This one’s a classic anyway.


I finally read The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky, who’s perhaps better known for his books Cod and Salt, neither of which I’ve read, as it turns out. The Big Oyster, however, I can recommend if you’re a lover of oysters and/or a lover of New York. I have a complicated relationship with New York, which I think might have actually enhanced my reading experience, because this book catches New York at its ups and downs.


A couple of things I thought about while reading this book:

1. It BLOWS MY MIND to think of a New York in which people could eat things out of the estuary. It also blows my mind to think that when people thought of New York back then, they might have immediately thought of oysters. Of course I understand that cities evolve, but imagining New York as anything other than the monolith it is today is really tough.

2. I do believe this book tips its hat quite a bit to Consider the Oyster, given the number of old recipes reprinted throughout.

3. I learned why baby oysters are called spats! Oystermen referrred to the mating process of oysters as “spitting.” therefore baby oysters had been “spat.” Delightful!

4. It’s amazing just how fast the overfishing started. In the oyster shell middens left behind by the native folks who lived on Manhattan, a decrease in shell size can be observed from the bottoms of the piles to the top. Oyster gathering had to be regulated practically as soon as it began by settlers. Foresight: we humans don’t often have it.

5. As someone who makes lots of things with my hands, I appreciate when some processes defy mechanization. Just as any goods made of wool start with some human being literally wrestling a sheep in order to shear it, there really isn’t a better way to shuck an oyster than by hand, with a knife.

6. The book is ultimatley quite depressing, naturally, given the state of wild oysters (that state is functionally extinct), but all hope isn’t lost and although we royally screwed up the harbor for a long time, it’s in a much better state now than it has been in an extremely long time, and more oyster reefs will only help with that.

By happenstance, the weekend before I read this book, I went to The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, NY. Don’t worry; I went to the Hall of Fame too. Naturally, I was there to see this sort of thing:


But mollusks are really never very far away. They’re one of the ways to ride the carousel:


(That’s an action shot taken from the frog I was riding). And oysters were prominently featured in the exhibition about foods of New York. As a native New Yorker, I have to feel pretty proud that my state has contributed such amazing delicacies as jello and potato chips to the culinary lexicon, and it was pretty neat to see some oyster memorabilia, all of which made more sense after reading The Big Oyster.


Another super fun thing about the Farmers’ Museum is that it plays host to one of the greatest of all hoaxes, The Cardiff Giant. What a great piece of humbug history!

Lots of good stuff came across my desk this week.

1. The Encyclopedia of Life has a podcast and their newest episode is about sea slugs. There’s also a recent one about giant squid.

2. Speaking of, giant squid in Florida! Gotta love local news.

3. A snail thought to be extinct isn’t.

4. Punxsutawney Phil he ain’t, but there’s a quahog that predicts how many days of beach weather Cape Cod will be getting this summer.

5. How mucous trails relate to snail mating habits.

6. Here’s a completely terrifying video of a snail eating a worm.

7. As a chaser, here’s a completely adorable video of a snail eating lettuce.

8. Wouldn’t be Friday link time without a lollusk!
funny pictures

When I was in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend, I went to Tacoma for an afternoon of beer, wildlife viewing (seals and bald eagles! In an urban park!), and glass. I love Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. The first time I was there, quite a few years ago, there was a glass octopus!


This time, there was an exhibition called Kids Design Glass. The idea is that perfectly simple kind of genius: kids make a drawing on paper and glass artists render that into a sculpture. Between the drawings, titles, and artist statements by the kids, it was absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. Apart from just being funny, it was also incredibly imaginative, exuberant, occasionally touching and sad, and beautiful. If you have a chance to get to the museum before the exhibition closes, I really really recommend it.

There were several repeating motifs in the sculptures: dinosaurs figured in several sculptures, as did pickles (?), and mollusks! One of them is a pickle/mollusk combo. Here’s the sculpture:


Sorry it’s blurry, but this is the Pickle Buck, who lives on an island called Lava Squid and has “squids strapped so it can go.” Here’s the sculpture:


I love the multicolor glass on those squid.

The other one was the Octopussy. Keep your giggles to yourself; this is a family exhbition. Here’s the drawing:

Evil octopus! And the sculpture:


Hm, five tentacles? We’ll chalk that up to imagination!

There’s a flickr set of the making of one of the (non-mollusk related) pieces. Check it out!

It’s not too glamorous, but hey. When you live in New York City, wildlife that isn’t pigeons, cockroaches, and rats is a welcome sight.

I chaperoned a high school field trip to the wilds of New Jersey in the spring, during which there was lots of rock flipping and rooting around in the wilderness for different kinds of animals. We did pretty well, especially on the arthropod front: crayfish, isopods, centipedes, all sorts of bugs and spiders. On the mollusk front, there was only one find: I turned up a slug!


I love how you can just see its little tentacles there. So cute.
I was thinking of this slug because I am currently reading (for the first time, if you can believe it) Watership Down, and I like that the hedgehogs sing to the moon to make the slugs come out:

O Slug-a-Moon, O Slug-a-Moon,
O grant thy faithful hedgehog’s boon!

I think I’ll sing this to the moon on the eve of International Rock Flipping Day this year, in hopes that I find mollusks and not earwigs.

Here’s an odd thing about me: I like watching cooking shows even though they’re so rarely vegetarian friendly. Top Chef, America’s Test Kitchen, Good Eats, good times! I don’t tend to read a lot of food writing (though I do enjoy me some Julia Child), but I did recently read Consider the Oyster by MFK Fisher, and I heartily recommend it. It was published in 1941, and while I confess to knowing little about the history of food writing, it seems ahead of its time. Her writing is remarkably fresh and contemporary to me, or maybe I’m stuck in a time warp. Both are plausible.

Consider the Oyster is a book of essays about oysters, with a little bit of natural history and a bunch of recipes. Everything is injected with MFK Fisher’s wit and strong opinions. It’s quirky and delightful and you should read it if you haven’t yet (It’ll take you all of an hour.). I think the parts where it feels not so fresh are in the recipes, because I don’t imagine anything that’s not bread but called a “loaf” is a part of the current culinary lexicon. Again, I could be totally wrong about that and Thomas Keller could have meatloaf on his menu as I’m writing this. He does, interestingly, always have the same oyster dish on his menu: Oysters and Pearls.

(photo: devlyn)

Now regarding the eating of oysters, last year we were told that vegans should consider eating them in this Slate article. To decide whether this a well thought-out argument or a justification from a guilt-ridden former vegan is an exercise left to the reader. The article is quite compelling to me, but I think I simply like mollusks too much to eat them.

Now Forbes is telling us that oysters are the new sushi. Faux trend articles are an actual trend, but color me intrigued. If people want to swap out tuna for oysters, OK by me!

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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