September 6, 2011


The arm that gets all the fun –

Come mating season

Most male cephalopods (octopus, squid, cuttlefish, nautilus) have an arm dedicated to reproduction called the hectocotylus. Essentially a tube of muscle, the arm passes sperm packets to the female during mating. The structure of the hectocotylus can be species specific, making it a handy tool in helping classify an organism. The arm was named when one was found detached from the male after mating and still left in the female, thus being confused for a parasitic worm. Sadly, cephalopds are generally short-lived and most die after mating.


Ode to Fieldwork

September 1, 2011

Engines on – Away!

Samples see beneath the waves.

Red right returns you. 

The school year is finally here and I lucked out with getting on (and accidentally in) the water on the first day of my Experimental Marine Bio class. We practiced sampling with a ponar grab to take up sediments from the floor and using a secchi disk to measure light penetration. Here’s wishing you a good semester and lots of learning and good science!


August 20, 2011

Nemo’s father wept,

When the cold deep claimed his wife

And he became mom.

Clownfish (Subfamily Amphiprioninae) were made famous by Pixar’s Finding Nemo, to the point were fans both young and old at pet shops and aquaria go crazy after spotting a “nemo” fish or one of his friends. One of the interesting aspects of clownfish biology is that they are protandrous hermaphrodites. All start off as males and then a few become female as required. For finding Nemo this means that following the mother’s untimely death during a barracuda attack, the remaining parent should have become a female. I for one would have like to see how such a plot twist would have been received by the target audience.


Isopod, giant

August 11, 2011

Giant isopod

Lumbers, looking for a meal.

Eats too much to walk

The giant isopods, Bathynomus giganteus, exemplify the phenomena of abyssal gigantism where organisms in the deep ocean are significantly larger than their shallow water or terrestrial counterparts. For the giant isopod this translates into a “pillbug” over 70 cm long. Like isopods on B. giganteus feed on the “waste” that accumulates on the seafloor, mostly in the form of animal carcasses. True to the form of deep sea organisms, these isopods are adapted to living off of irregular large meals. When the isopod finally finds a meal it can eat so much that it won’t be able to move for a while afterwards.

Giant Isopod. Courtesy Wikimedia commons

The epic

August 5, 2011

Hey everyone. I’m extremely excited with the great reception my blog has been getting. I’ve decided to try something new, a sort of epic poem about oceans and the world. It’s being written slowly and evolving steadily. If you want to check it out it’s under the page called “The Epic” https://panthalassarising.wordpress.com/the-epic/   If you have any ideas, comments, feedback, suggestions etc please email me or leave a comment on the page.



Shark week – Part 4

August 5, 2011

Skin glows like the sky

Etmopterus perryi

Smallest of the sharks

Sharks are almost always viewed as giant vicious fish. However, most sharks don’t grow more than a few feet long and only a few species are particularly dangerous, at least to humans. The Dwarf Lanternshark, Etmopterus perryi, is thought to be the smallest shark known to science with maximum sizes of 21cm. Like many animals in the deep these sharks exhibit Bioluminescence where they can produce light in special patterns on their skin from tissue known as Photophores. A mother Lanternshark raises the young inside her body, but there is no placenta or any other connection between the mother and pup, a condition known as aplacental viviparity.

The Dwarf Lanternshark. Courtesy WIkimedia Commons

Shark Week – Part 3

August 3, 2011

Rough, biting shark skin

Proto-teeth bound up in flesh

Always squeaky-clean

Besides giving sharks a smooth ride through the water by increasing hydrodynamics, the tooth like denticle scales that cover shark skin have been revealed to have another purpose, one that could benefit humans. Sharks are notoriously clean animals. They don’t have growths of barnacles like the large whales or sea turtles and neither do they tend to carry microbial life. Researchers are looking at this as a promising source of biologically inspired technologies to keep pathogenic organisms from spreading. By mimicking the diamond like pattern the denticles form it is possible to create an antimicrobial  barrier that is thin enough to cover surfaces in hospitals, public places, etc. The big benefit comes from reduction of caustic chemical disinfectants and, hopefully, slowing the use of antibiotics that lead to so called, “super-bugs” such as MRSA. The material could theoretically  be used on ship hulls and other underwater surfaces to protect them from Biofouling organisms without using paints laced with harmful compounds.