Monthly Archives: February 2019

There are no odes for these podes

Octopus Fact
Octopus Fact

Octopuses are completely deaf.

Sound reasons for silence: why do molluscs not communicate acoustically?

To pluralize Octopus we must use the origin of the word:

  • octopuses is the most common form in the UK as well as the US;
  • octopodes is rare,
  • and octopi is often objectionable.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists octopuses, octopi and octopodes (in that order);
it labels octopodes “rare”, and notes that octopi derives from the mistaken assumption that octōpūs is a second declension Latin noun, which it is not. Rather, it is (Latinized) Ancient Greek, from oktṓpous (ὀκτώπους), gender masculine, whose plural is oktṓpodes (ὀκτώποδες).
If the word were native to Latin, it would be octōpēs (‘eight-foot’) and the plural octōpedes, analogous to centipedes and mīllipedes, as the plural form of pēs (‘foot’) is pedes.
In modern Greek, it is called khtapódi (χταπόδι), gender neuter, with plural form khtapódia (χταπόδια).

Rx from under the sea

Sponge fact
Callyspongia plicifera

Sponges are spineless animals belong to phylum Porifera. Sponges can be immensely helpful in treating many diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and cancer. Chemical from sponges have many antibacterial properties.

Azure Vase Sponge – Callyspongia plicifera

Callyspongi –  Cally- Greek “kallista,” = ‘beautiful, lovely. ‘ Kallista is likely associated with Callisto, a nymph who was a babe. Long story short, she had an affair with her BFF’s dad, Zeus, got pregnant, was shot by the disgusted BFF and, with Zeus’ intervention, became bears set in the sky as stars called Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
Plicifera – Latin “plici” = ‘fold’, +fera – Greek = ‘bearing

Porifera – Greek = “pore bearer’

Smartest Fish in the Sea? Mantas with PhDs!

Manta Brain
Manta Brain

Mantas have one of the largest brains of all fish! They have a giant rete, web of capillaries and blood vessels, that encases their huge brain and keeps it warm even when diving to incredible depths.

“The gross morphology of their brains resembled the most to that of hammerhead sharks, most likely due to the three dimensional habitat they live, their active and maneuverable lifestyles, highly developed social and migratory behavior and possibly the increased ability of sensory processing thanks to the broad shape of their heads.”

Csilla Ari, renowned manta researcher

By and Large

By and Large
By and Large

By the wind means sailing into the wind as directly as possible.

Large refers to when the wind is blowing from some compass point behind a ship’s direction of travel, “abaft the beam.”

If a ship ship performed well in both situations, she was said to be a good vessel “by and large“, a phrase we use to this day.

The “by” part of the phrase means “close-hauled.” (This “by” also appears in the term full and by, meaning “sailing with all sails full and close to the wind as possible.”)

When the wind is in that favorable ‘large‘ direction the largest square sails may be set and the ship is able to travel in whatever downwind direction the captain sees fit.

Sorry McD it is “By and large” not “Buy the large”.

Frida has nothing on these Cirri

Secretary blenny -  Acanthemblemaria maria
Secretary blenny – Acanthemblemaria maria

Blenny Fact:
The eyebrow like appendages called cirri are used to feel for pressure waves of potential predators.

Secretary blennyAcanthemblemaria maria
Here the Secretary blenny has the cirri above the eye (a supraorbital cirrus.)
Acanthemblemaria maria lives in a hole in a colonial coral or an empty serpulid worm tube. It is often associated with small brain corals, sea fans, sea whips and sea urchins. They are an ambush predator, remaining concealed in its lair with only its head projecting, until a copepod or other small invertebrate prey approaches. At this stage, it darts out, grabs the prey and retreats into its home. The eggs are laid in the lair and are tended by the male, the female taking no part in their care.

Acanthemblemaria: Greek akantha = ‘thorn’ + Greek, emblema, –atos = ‘anything that is nailed, knocked in’
maria: Latin = ‘Mary’
Cirri – Latin cirrus = ‘a curl-like tuft or fringe’

People say spiders are scary, but I am glad I don’t have crinoids hiding all over my house.

Liparometra regalis - Crinoidia - Feather Stars
Liparometra regalis Crinoidia – Feather Stars

Liparometra regalisCrinoidia Feather Stars

regalis – Latin = ‘of or pertaining to a king’
Crinoidea – Greek from krinon – ‘a lily’

Crynoid Facts:

  • They’re not plants – Despite their resemblance to flowers, are not plants. They are echinoderms – animals characterized by their rough, spiny surface and 5 fold symmetry.
  • They’re not starfish – They are related to starfish in that they are both echinoids. Like starfish, Crinoids usually have 5 fold symmetry.
  • They eat with their arms – They are filter feeder and they wave their feathery arms which are covered with a sticky mucus to capture food -floating detritus. The feathery arms have growths called pinnules. The pinnules have rows of tube feet on each side of a groove running down the center. The tube feet that cover the arms pass the food to the center where it is put into their mouth.
  • Crinoids are old… really really old – They have been around since the Ordovician period – 490 million years ago. Paleontologists however, think they could be even older than that.
  • You’re more likely to find a crinoid fossil than you are living crinoid – Crinoids today are relatively rare however they were once plentiful and diverse. These echinoderms were at their height during the Paleozoic era (544 to 245 million years ago ). They could be found all over the world, creating forests on the floor of the shallow seas of this time period. There were so many in places, that thick limestone beds were formed almost entirely from their body parts piled on top of each other.

Why would anyone get excited about T. rex, when you have crinoids !

Robert Bakker – paleontologist

Won’t have to wait to tell your grandchildren about.

Linckia multifora
Linckia multifora

Multipore Sea StarLinckia muitifora
Interestingly the Multipore exhibits autotomy (self amputation) and often sheds one or more arms. In this process, the arms become detached at various positions and each can grow into a new individual. This happens with such frequency that it is considered to be a means of asexual reproduction. Few individuals are found that do not exhibit some evidence of prior autotomy. Individuals always lose their largest arm to autotomy. From the “tail” of the comet, the arm that was dropped off, 4 arms are slowly growing back to form a new complete sea star. As the process continues, the little arms grow bigger, and they will eventually end up looking like stars again. It appears that most of the populations can be made up of these comet individuals. The sexual (gonochoric) produced embryos hatch into planktonic larvae spending up to two years in this stage before settleing and metamorphose into pentamorous juveniles which develop into young sea stars with stubby arms.

In a study on Hawaii, it was found that the detachment of an arm is not caused by a sudden snap. Most fractures take place about 1 inch from the disk. A small crack appears on the lower surface which spreads to adjacent parts, then the tube feet on the arm and the body pull the two parts of the animal in opposite directions. The event may take about one hour to complete. The damaged tissues take about 10 days to heal and the animal grows a new arm over the course of several months. The detached arm is known as a “comet” and moves about independently. It takes about 10 months to regenerate a new disk with arms 0.5 inch in length.

Sea stars can probably undergo asexual reproduction more easily than other animals because they have most of their organs repeated in each of their arms. Also, they don’t have a centralized nervous system, it would probably be a trickier thing to do if they also had to regenerate a full brain. Because of the position of their mouth, it is also one of the first thing to be regrown, so they don’t have to starve for too long before they can feed again. If many species of sea stars can regrow a missing arm, only a few can, like Linckia multifora, regrow a full animal from just an arm.

Linclda – The genus is named after the German naturalist Johann Heinrich Linck
muitifora multi– ‘much or many’ and +fora = ‘forum’?

Halley’s Comet is arguably the most famous comet. It is a “periodic” comet and returns to Earth’s vicinity about every 75 years, making it possible for a human to see it twice in his or her lifetime. The last time it was here was in 1986, and it is projected to return in 2061.

Whale flight

Humpback Feeding
Humpback Feeding

Humpback whale feeding on herring. It scientific name is Megaptera and literally means mega wings.

Humpback – is derived from the curving of their backs when diving.
Megaptera –  Greek mega– “giant” + ptera ‘wing’ refers to their large front flippers.
novaeangliae – French = “New Englander” and was probably given by Brisson due to regular sightings of humpbacks off the coast of New England.

Like a kite string in the sky


White-Tailed TropicbirdPhaethon lepturus

  • Tail Streamers are white and can be up to seventeen inches long.
  • Forages by plunging into water from flight, submerging briefly; sometimes by swooping down to surface without striking water, taking flying fish in the air.
  • May feed most actively in early morning and late afternoon.
  • Courtship displays include two birds flying gracefully in unison, one above the other, with higher bird bending tail down to touch tail of lower bird.

Phaethon – Greek mythology- son of Helios; killed when trying to drive his father’s chariot and came too close to earth
epturus: Greek leptós = ‘slender, thin’, and +ourá = ‘tail’

Songs and Calls:

A piping “keck-keck-keck

Horns, Horns on my head…

Manta Horns
Manta horns

The distinctive ‘horns’ on either side of its broad head are actually derived from the pectoral fins. During embryonic development, part of the pectoral fin breaks away and moves forward, surround the mouth. The way the horns develop is surprisingly simple. All it takes is a tiny notch that deepens and widens as the manta grows, separating each fin into two distinct parts: one for feeding and the remainder for swimming. This give the manta ray the distinction of being the only jawed vertebrate to have novel limbs. These flexible horns are used to direct plankton into its mouth.

Oh, give me a horn on the sides of my head
Where I keep them rolled up all tight;
And where the food is just right I reach out to bite
And the plankton is funneled precisely in.
Horns Horns on my head…

Jon B – from Home on the Range