Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hungry Plants In Motion
Plants are often thought of as boring organisms. They just sit there, soaking up sunlight and drinking water from the soil.

In reality, the plant world is very dynamic. Trees thrust hard into the sky, battling for every scrap of sunlight. Vines swarm up from the forest floor, choking out their hosts in their desperate search for nutrients.

Some plants even kill and consume live prey, especially in areas like bogs and marshes where soil quality is low.

I could spend days writing about the wonders of carnivorous plants, but instead I will leave you with a couple of excellent videos I found on some particularly cool plant hunters.

Watch closely, especially the time lapse video, and hopefully you will come to share my appreciation of the violent world of plants.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday With The Fungus Eater
This lovely gastropod is Indrella ampulla, a unique species of snail that lives in the tropical rainforest in the Western Ghats of India.

There isn't a great deal of information  floating around on this intriguing mollusk, so all that I can tell you is that it feeds on fungus.

Also, like last week's painted snail, this creature exhibits quite a bit of color variation.

So, in lieu of more information, I'll leave you with a few images of these wonderful pulmonates. Please, observe and enjoy their marvelous diversity and exotic beauty.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday With The Painted Snail
Well, its Monday again, which means its time for another wonderful Monday gastropod.

Behold, Polymita picta, the painted snail.

This beautiful land snail is a pulmonate, which means it is part  of an illustrious group of snails and slugs that have acquired the ability to breathe the air with lungs instead of gills.

This particular pulmonate is native to Cuba, and can be found nowhere else.
 Perhaps the most splendid thing about this species of snail is it's incredible diversity.

As you can see, the range of colors these creatures produce is truly inspiring.

Unfortunately, this beauty brings these lovely animals to the attention of humans, who often kill  snails and make ornaments from their shells.

It is sad, really, that our species can't just appreciate the wonders nature produces. There will always be those who would rather destroy something to possess it than let it go free and retain it''s natural beauty.
And so I leave you with a final image, that of an intact snail making it's way through the leaves of it's home.

Marvel at the beautiful structure it has labored it's whole life to produce. I don't know about you, but I am happy to leave it  where it is.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Anemones With Personality
This simple creature is an anemone.

Actinia equina, the beadlet anemone, to be more precise.

Anchored firmly to it's home somewhere along the rocky shoreline of the United Kingdom, this delicate cnidarian looks no different from the other A. equina it shares the sea with.

But it is different, indeed. Its different because it has it's own personality.

Recently, scientists tested beadlet anemones along the coastline by startling them with jets of water and seeing how long they stayed contracted before unfurling their coils to resume feeding. Response time varied between individuals, but the individuals themselves were very consistent in their response times.

I realize that might not sound very interesting, but I feel every bit of insight we can gain concerning the minds of our fellow species is priceless.
And remember, this is a creature with a very primitive nervous system. If such a simple creature is capable of this level of neurological complexity, imagine what the more complex lifeforms are capable of.

Truly, we live in a time of great discovery. There is really no telling what wonders lay out there in the minds of our fellow species, just waiting to be uncovered.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cuttlefish In Motion
Anyone who has followed me from the beginning knows how much cuttlefish impress me.

These marvelous sepiid cephalopods are amazing in so many ways, from their insanely malleable skin to their piercing intelligence.

In an effort to reestablish my fondness for these creatures, I present you with a video I came across that displays many of their unique abilities quite well.

So please, observe, and look closely into those alien eyes. I am sure you will be convinced, as I am, that far more lurks in those w shaped pupils than a simple molluscan mind.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gastropods, Mondays, And The Lovely Chromodoris Annae
Gastropods are an amazing group of organisms. There may be as many as 80,000 different species in this class of mollusk that contains all snails, slugs, and related organisms.

The most impressive thing, in my opinion, is the fact that gastropoda is the only group of organisms that has conquered every habitat. They flourish in the sea, they spread across the land, and they thrive in freshwater ecosystems. Their great diversity of form and behavior makes this a remarkable group to study.
Which brings me to my reason for this post. In honor of the vast array of gastropod forms, I have decided to make Mondays on this blog forever their abode.

Every Monday will bring a new species of gastropod. Snails, limpets, conchs, nudibranches, and sea hares will all be represented.

Sometimes, it might just be a picture and a snippet of information, while other days I might go to greater depths and produce a flood of knowledge.

For today, though, I give you the stunning creature pictured here. Chromodoris annae, a lovely species of nudibranch.

These beautiful marine slugs feed on sponges in the western Pacific Ocean.
 Like all nudibranch, this lovely species glides along using the two tentacles, Rhinophores, at it's head to taste chemicals and proteins floating in the sea, all while breathing through the frilly gills hanging from it's posterior end.

Bask in it's beauty, and know that more is coming. I can only hope that, in time, you have as much appreciation for this marvelous class of organism as I do.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Mollusk That Uses Tools
This is the veined octopus, Amphioctus marginatus, and it is a mollusk.

What this basically means is that this soft bodied creature, equipped with three hearts and blood that uses copper instead of iron to transport oxygen, is more closely related to snails and clams than it is to you or any other vertebrate.

This simple fact is what makes this small octopod's behavior so amazing.

You see, this remarkable creature uses tools.
Dwelling in the sandy bottoms of bays and lagoons along the western Pacific Ocean, this baseball sized cephalopod is a voracious hunter. Unfortunately, it is also a tender, soft bodied snack for any larger predator that comes along.

So what does this remarkable little guy do? He gathers up discarded coconut shells and other similar debris, sometimes carrying individual pieces as far as 65 feet.

Then he carefully arranges them into a well built shelter where he can hide with confidence.
How awesome is that? Such behavioral and cognitive complexity in a creature that doesn't even have a spinal cord and only lives for two years just blows my mind.

Just think, it was only a few decades ago that scientists discovered that chimpanzees use tools, and now we're finding that even invertebrates are capable of such feats.

These truly are exciting times, and as humans probe deeper into the minds of our fellow species I can only hope we develop a greater respect and appreciation for the life that surrounds us.