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Articles on this Page
- 12/17/16--11:05: _Starfish Guide for ...
- 02/01/17--07:43: _Brittle Stars that ...
- 03/06/17--06:23: _Highlights from the...
- 03/17/17--07:45: _Okeanos Tropical Pa...
- 04/25/17--06:35: _Okeanos Follow-up: ...
- 05/08/17--10:37: _Brittle Stars of (s...
- 05/16/17--05:44: _Tremaster mirabilis...
- 05/31/17--07:49: _Five Highlights fro...
- 06/27/17--09:24: _BIG NEWS!!! Echino...
- 08/10/17--08:09: _Okeanos Explorer Co...
- 09/05/17--13:43: _Pacific Northwest S...
- 01/24/18--10:27: _Unusual Surface Tex...
- 03/19/18--05:54: _Taxonomy Day 2018! ...
- 04/23/18--10:05: _The "starfish walki...
- 07/01/18--06:02: _#PolychaeteDay 2018...
- 02/01/17--07:43: Brittle Stars that Steal Food From Jellyfish!
- 03/06/17--06:23: Highlights from the recent NOAA Okeanos Explorer Samoa Expedition!
- 06/27/17--09:24: BIG NEWS!!! Echinoblog Will be ON Okeanos Explorer!!
- 08/10/17--08:09: Okeanos Explorer Communities & Deep-Sea Discoveries!
- 09/05/17--13:43: Pacific Northwest Sea Stars Names: EXPLAINED!!
- 03/19/18--05:54: Taxonomy Day 2018! Museum Trends from Starfish Travels!
- 04/23/18--10:05: The "starfish walking back to the sea" FAQ & why it is sad
- 07/01/18--06:02: #PolychaeteDay 2018 Edition: Swimming Polychaete Worms!
|Photo by Matt Kiefer via Wikipedia:|
Today's post is a kind of response to a fairly common request I get via email: "Can you help me ID this species of starfish from the Philippines?" (paraphrased)
A question I get from divers, photographers and students who actually live in the Philippines. And strangely enough I get it quite frequently and there are surprisingly few resources to help people with pictures.
In the past I have done variations on this by crowd sourcing images off places like Flickr and YouTube and its been awhile since I've done an "on line field guide." So I thought it would be a good time for another one!
With the exception of Acanthaster brevispinus (above), EVERYTHING below is taken from Flickr and recorded as being from the Philippines by the photographer.
The Philippines has a rich, RICH diversity of sea stars (as well as many, other marine animals) and so this "guide" won't be complete, but it includes several of the most frequently encountered species which are photographed and put on the web.
If you are looking for professional taxonomic monography of Philippine sea stars a good place to start is the work of Walter K. Fisher at the Biodiversity Heritage Library. HERE.
There are many, MANY published ID guides to the Indo-Pacific area and I've identified species in many of those books. But these days, images of sea stars and other marine animals are so prolific, it became clear that it really wouldn't take much to curate a collection of these to provide help for people who want to know what the animals were who didn't have expertise to the published accounts..
Another place to look for a nice crowd-sourced inventory of sea stars from the Philippines or anywhere is at iNaturalist! Go HERE. Identifications are not always from experts but its a good place to start.
I always like to remind folks when actually in the field.. look but don't TOUCH (or at least put it back!)
So here we go in reverse alphabetical order....
Euretaster attenuatus.This species belongs to the family of sea stars which are best known as "slime stars" in cold-water habitats.There's only been one account of the tropical species using "slime" as a defense and it wasn't really in a scientific journal.
This species has a distinct hole in the center of the disk called an osculum which allows water into the surface of the disk which is kind of like a circus tent that covers over the ACTUAL surface of the animal underneath (see the blog link above).
Its a species we know very little about. Another species, Euretaster insignis is usually what gets encountered in the Philippines. This image however most resembles E. attenuatus which was first described from New Caledonia. This is possibly a new record!
This species occurs widely around the Indo-Pacific, extending into the Indian Ocean with many, MANY color variations. Food, biology, etc. are poorly known.
As I've written about before here, this is one of the most heavily fished sea stars in the Indo-Pacific. Not just for tourist baubles but also for the aquarium trade. Its a handsome species and frequently gets "volunteered" for tourist pictures, beach moments, and aquarium scenes.
Nardoa frianti The genus Nardoa is named for the Italian naturalist Giovanni Nardo as I discussed in a post WAAAY back in 2008
There are MANY species. And they are often quite complicated. Even this one with its distinctive tubercles (the bumps) is conceivably part of a broader species complex. To make things even more complicated, you will sometimes see Nardoa species with these big bumps in the genus Gomophia.
Nardoa sp. similar to "N. novaecaledoniae" This one has flattened or at least, MORE flat plates relative to Nardoa frianti (above).
The exact species ID for this animal can't be made from a picture like this because we need to see the underside in order for the precise details. It LOOKS like a species that I would call Nardoa novaecaledoniae but there are several other possibilities. Close up on the underside would be necessary.
They have relatively solid surfaces with spiny surfaces. There is relatively little known about their general biology.
Luidiidae. There's only one genus in this family,Luidia and I've written about the general biology of the group here. The genus named after Edward Lhuyd, a Welsh naturalist.
Most members of Luidia are 5 armed..but for whatever reason, the ones in the tropics are often BIG and have more than 10 arms!
Luidia avicularia?Interesting to see this one since it doesn't usually occur at shallow depths. But the color pattern matches.
Luidia maculata This is a fairly large predatory starfish, often found buried below the surface of the sand.
We know very little about it.
Echinaster callosus I've seen this species often mixed up with Nardoa frianti, above. The big difference is in the texture of the "puffy" structures on the surface. Nardoa's bumps are just that- hard bumps covered by granules.
The surface of Echinaster callosus is covered by a bunch of big colorful puffy pin cushions. The big blobs are soft and each surround a sharp spine. When dead, they often deflate.
Colors are quite pretty and variable...
This species appears, at first to be fairly non-descript but a lot of things are going on with this species. In addition to the asexual reproduction and arm regeneration, this species is also often the host to benthic comb jellies! You can read more about that here.
Acanthaster planci (or A. cf. solaris). The notorious Crown of Thorns starfish has recently been studied using molecular techniques and revealed to actually be SEVERAL species. The one occurring in the Pacific has been referred to an older name, Acanthaster solaris. But presumably there are still several details to work out..
|Ophiuroids on Jelly in Mozambique. Photo by Andrea Marshall, Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/~/article-3990782/index.html#i-570251ad33a88841|
1. How many different types of Jellyfish species does Ophiocnemis marmorata occur ON??
The paper reports at least five or six, including at least 3 species of Rhopilema, Cephea cephea (the cauliflower jellyfish), Netrostoma and Aurelia aurita. But other internet records and social media show further hosts.. such as this hydrozoan, Aequorea from Thailand..
|From Chaloklum Diving in Singapore, http://www.chaloklum-diving.com/marine-life-koh-phangan/corals-more-cnidaria/true-jellyfish-scythozoa/scythozoa-other-jellyfish/|
And here's a blog that documents this brittle stars on the "hairy" jellyfish. Lobocnema
|Image by Thomas Peschak, https://www.thomaspeschak.com/|
Its also worth noting that the brittle stars stay on the medusae ONLY within their home range. Many of these jellies, such as Aurelia (i.e. moon jellies) actually go beyond tropical settings and they really aren't seen on jellies in cold to temperate waters..
3. So, what are the brittle stars EATING??
The authors used a novel new method which basically breaks down the organic components of specific isotopes (Carbon and Nitrogen) and looks for how much of those isotopes is present in the subjects versus that which is provided by the environment.
Long story short: The data indcates that most of the food sources in Ophiocnemis seems to come from PLANKTONIC SOURCES! (i.e. the mesozooplankton) and NOT from the medusae itself and there were not any observations of Ophiocnemis filter feeding (i.e. arms up in the water).
And so the authors suggest that they are what's called KLEPTOPARASITES (a great word-really!). In other words, they take food directly away from the jellyfish out of the mouth or the oral arms, stealing or scavenging food from the jellyfish which are known as big pelagic predators.. What would be called "indirect food sources"...
There are several reports of other brittle stars that practice "kleptoparasitc" behavior.. i.e. moving down into the feeding arms or near the mouth and stealing food directly from the host. Some of it might not be a big deal to the host.. scraps and etc.. but meaningful to the ophiuroids..
|Image by Ron Yeo at Tidechaser, http://tidechaser.blogspot.com/2012/03/brittle-stars-ophiuroidea-of-singapore.html|
4. Growth and Settlement..aka Living on a Changing Jellyfish World
|Image by Ron Yeo at Tidechaser http://tidechaser.blogspot.com/2012/03/brittle-stars-ophiuroidea-of-singapore.html|
That wraps up #Okeanos American Samoa expedition! Never fear, next expedition to explore Pacific MPAs starts March 7. We'll be back soon! pic.twitter.com/nTlBkF0NRG— NOAA Ocean Explorer (@oceanexplorer) March 1, 2017
Most of what I'll present here are animals, but in the deep regions of the ocean, single-celled organisms that are basically HUGE amoebas can develop fairly LARGE structures out of sediment. I've written about them here. Some are called xenophyophores but it turns out that there's a fair diversity of them.
Here's at least one structure observed on Utu Seamount at about 3030 meters!
those spines emerging off the edge makes it a deadly deep-sea umbrella!
Cnidarians are of course-those animals with stinging cells and radial symmetry. Jellyfish, sea anemones, hydras, hydroids and so on.They account for a huge diversity in deep-sea habitats!
This "cosmic jellyfish" has been making the rounds. Its been identified as Benthocodon hyalinus by my colleague Allen Collins at NMFS. It was observed on Utu Seamount at about 3006 meters!!
Dandelion siphonophore, seen at 2500m depth in Rose Atoll. #Okeanos back at Rose Atoll today, but starting at 700m. ROV on bottom in ~3hrs! pic.twitter.com/CXB4wnl4SQ— NOAA Ocean Explorer (@oceanexplorer) February 25, 2017
Probably the BIG, weird star of this leg was this BIZARRE blobby tree shaped thing! Turns out its a bizarre sea anemone in the family Aliciidae! Its tentacles had been withdrawn...
we saw one of these during the Marianas expedition LAST year! Which makes the one above a likely DIFFERENT species from the other one we saw which had yellow buttons rather than white ones..
Dr. Dave Pawson at the National Museum of Natural History was apparently stung by one of these (only 6 inches long) and reported that each of these buttons are batteries of STINGING cells which can cause painful stings that last for several hours!! (click here)
ROV scoop flipped one of these critters over & iIndividual gills (arrows) mean MONOPLACOPHORAN!— Carina M. Gsottbauer (@CarinaDSLR) February 24, 2017
~3800m, Utu Seamount, Samoa #okeanospic.twitter.com/xKALOOeCtR
Octopus! So, of course we are always fond of cephalopods when they turn up! This white translucent octopus species was observed at least twice on the dive at relatively "shallow" depths between 380 and 400 m. This first shot was from Tau seamount.
Note that the webs of skin between the arms were translucent!
but for now, here's some striking "spiny-skinned" friends that I saw...
This funny beast which I think was in the Deimatidae? Note that as with many deep-sea sea cucumbers, the body wall was translucent and we can see the sediment eaten by the animal THROUGH the body wall!
I blogged about this genus of sea cucumber and the number of species there might in the world oceans!
Rewatching today's #okeanos dive:— Carina M. Gsottbauer (@CarinaDSLR) February 24, 2017
A sea cucumber singing the song of its people ;)
~3900m, Utu seamount, Samoa pic.twitter.com/EiIkoxCgRD
A sea urchin the family Pedinidae I think? Lovely greenish coloration!
The crab benefits from the protection and the zoanthid gets driven around by the crab for dispersion, food, etc.. Interesting commensalism!
Before I get into the cool pix.. remember NOAA OPERATES Okeanos Explorer!! NOAA has been threatened with severe budget cuts. CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REP AND TELL THEM THAT NOAA IS AN ESSENTIAL Agency!
1. PELAGOTHURIA! The "TRUE" swimming Echinoderm!!
I have written about this amazing animal before when I found an image of it misidentified as a jellyfish in the Galapagos Rift 2011 Okeanos photo gallery and have written at some length about swimming sea cucumbers here.
Basically, almost all sea cucumbers and indeed most echinoderms are benthic..that is they live entirely on the sea floor and never get into the water column the way fish or jellyfish do.. Yes. Some sea cucumbers can swim but ultimately they return to the bottom.
Pelagothuria is unique because it LIVES SWIMMING in the water column! Similar to the way a jellyfish does. As a result of its strange lifestyle, it has MANY bizarre adaptations and looks unlike most other sea cucumbers much less other echinoderms!
Its not a commonly encountered animal..and we live in a wonderous time that we can see several minutes of HD video of this seldom seen animal swimming by...
The video for this can be found HERE: http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/ex1703/dailyupdates/media/video/dive08_seacuke/seacuke.html
2. The strange irregular urchin Phrissocystis! From Polo Seamount, about 2100 m we saw one of the most seldom seen spatangoid urchins known! These are highly evolutionarily derived sea urchins which live by digging through and swallowing sediment looking for food.
Although they are bristling with spines, they are actually quite delicate. One collected many years ago apparently collapsed as soon as it was brought out of the water in the submersible collection box!
It was quite large with an unusual texture to the stalk and the cup...
5. The enigmatic sea star Tremaster mirabilis Here's another strange one! A sea star that basically looks like a bowl on the top of a table!
We've seen these before on Atlantic Okeanos dives (see that here) and I wrote about this animal many years ago before people started seeing them alive..
There is nominally ONE species present in almost every ocean in the world.. they've been found in the Atlantic, around New Caledonia, near Hawaii and in the Antarctic. Not sure if they've been found in the Indian Ocean.
Interestingly, these were found in astonishing abundance on one of the seamount dives
5a. The Deep-Sea Slime Star HYMENASTER
From Titov Seamount was this glorious, glorious deep-sea SLIME STAR, in the genus Hymenaster.
I've written about the shallow water representatives of this genus here. and explored the diversity of Hymenaster in the deep-sea here
*EXTRA! and of course a bunch of weird sea cucumbers!!
A deimatid sea cucumber with many tentacular extensions, this one from Swains Atoll
and this one from Titov Seamount but they look to be similar if not identical
This one has been seen repeatedly rearing back and presenting what I think is its mouth into the water. so maybe feeding?
A red one from Polo Seamount
Mostly I call in on starfishes or echinoderm biology..but I do have a broad interest in deep-sea biology. And I just LOVE seeing observations like the one above: a weird animal doing something no one is familiar with!
And the BEST thing about Okeanos Explorer? EVERYONE can enjoy it along with you!! Here's a BUNCH of Sea spider observations from the Atlantic Okeanos Explorer in 2014!
...BUT of course, our ship and shore-side scientists can't know EVERYTHING. We'll often observe an event, many of us make note of it in case we see it again and often times we'll move on.... forgetting about it until such a time when the observation comes up again.
ONE such observation was one from 2014 on the Atlantic Physalia Seamount wherein we observed a sea spider in the genus Colossendeis sp. with its proboscis (that's the long cigar shaped feeding tube) stuckINTO into this hydroid (an animal similar to a Hydra from freshwater)! Was this feeding? Was it NEW?
|Physalia Seamount in the North Atlantic|
Most sea spiders are pretty tiny and are less than about an inch (2 cm) across and its not unusual for them to be quite cryptic. So even though they can be present, you really DO have to look for them...
Here a photoessay of tropical, shallow water species by scientist/photographer Arthur Anker displaying some spectactular colors! Here's a spectacular male carrying eggs..
Many live in shallow water but are never seen (hidden and small)... but that's NOT a problem with the deep-sea and Antarctic species! There's one frequently encountered genus: Colossendeis which is one of the largest known sea spiders reaching a leg-to-leg diameter of over 50 cm! that's almost a FOOT and a HALF!
Most members of Colossendeis live in the proper deep ocean abyss: roughly 1000 to 5000 m and also in Antarctica where the cold-waters allow them to occur in relatively shallow water settings.
Note also the sizeable cigar shaped projection at the top end! That's called the PROBOSCIS! That will be important later! That is presumably what they use to feed.
So, were the observations something unusual? Has science encountered something like that before??
But much to my delight: YES! There WAS a previous account of sea spiders feeding! and WOO HOO! It turns out my friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California actually observed something JUST LIKE THIS in 2010!!! Here was their blog post about it!
The paper, by Caren Braby, Vicky Pearse, Bonnie Bain and Bob Vrijenhoek was published in Invertebrate Biology in 2009, 128(4): 359-363. and it documented "Pycnogonid-cnidarian trophic interaction in the deep Monterey Submarine Canyon"
They observed the same genus, Colossendeis, but at least two species, C. gigas and C. japonica feeding on commonly encountered sea anemones in the deeps of Monterey Canyon.
Braby et al.'s observations were the first for deep-sea Colossendeis (as opposed to Antarctic) species. Her team's work focused on their feeding on the deep-sea "pom pom anemone"Liponema brevicornis, an unusual sea anemone which literally "rolls" along the bottom of the deep-sea in a manner similar to a tumbleweed!
After the last 2017 Okeanos leg in the Phoenix Islands, I rounded up a BUNCH of the sea spider-feeding observations and decided to share them here as a comparison! Who knows? perhaps it will inspire a further paper!
Remember that NOAA's Okeanos Explorer program has captured these images and made them available for EVERYONE's enjoyment! Please remember that the next time someone talks about government funded science!
Winslow Reef: This one had its proboscis firmly ensconced into this flytrap anemone and was apparently sucking something out of it! The rather lethargic looking appearance is likely the result of being on the receiving end of whatever is going on here...
And ANOTHER on Winslow Reef! that was QUITE a dive! Here's another flytrap anemone with a sea spider attacking it! As we saw earlier from Monterey Canyon, sea anemones and other cnidarians seem to be one kind of preferred food!
Baker Island we saw one attacking what was identified as a cup coral...The proboscis seemed to be "drinking" pretty heavily on this one...
Howland Island.....and just for good measure they saw this one crawling over a glass sponge
More Atlantic Feeding? Here we had a sea spider in the Atlantic Nygren Canyon which has been identified as Pallenopsis (thanks to Bonnie Bain), climbing and possibly feeding on this sea pen.
So, unfortunately I'm not really a sea spider taxonomist, so beyond the genus Colossendeis, I'm not sure how many species we are looking at here..but images such as this inspire many questions: Is predation specific to species? Or generalized? How significant are these events to the ecosystem?
Do sea spiders attack the big colonial corals as well?
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode!
(video captured by 2011ACVVV)
Spines in these brittle stars is sharp and often with jagged edges..so capturing something soft-bodied isn't TOO surprising..
squid not escaping the brittle star @ jarvis island, se.#okeanos— soren 💬 (@roomthily) May 6, 2017
oh. oh no. pic.twitter.com/81YLCv6cfj
Yes! Most of us don't think of sea stars OR brittle stars as capturing fast moving or SWIMMING prey! Strangely enough, THIS WAS CAUGHT ONCE BEFORE!!
Once, back in 1996 at the San Francisco International Echinoderm Conference Dr. Steve Stancyk and C. Muir at the University of South Carolina and Dr. Toshihiko Fujita of the National Science Museum in Tokyo presented some fascinating data showing the very abundant deep-sea brittle star Ophiura sarsicapturing and then swarming over and DEVOURING fish and shrimp as they got too close to the abundant carpets of brittle stars on the deep-sea bottom!!! Here was my blog post about back in 2008!
I remember seeing the presentation of this talk at San Francisco State University. The room was Standing Room ONLY! EVERYONE had to see the famous video of the brittle stars capturing swimming prey!!
Since I wrote that introductory post in 2008 not only have I learned more about it-but we've now seen it ALIVE all over the Atlantic and the tropical Pacific thanks to the livestream videos of Okeanos Explorer!
Brief Introductory Details: Tremaster is a starfish in the family Asterinidae, that puts in the same family as "bat stars" and a bunch of other sea stars you probably recognize from shallow waters and home aquariums. Go read this account on this huge and diverse group, which I wrote a while back...
|image via Flickr by Ed Bierman|
Katie published this great paper on feeding biology and ecology of deep-sea asteroids collected off the coast of Canada in the North Atlantic in Deep-Sea Research in 2013. I blogged it up here.
During the course of Katie's research she collected a fair amount of cool "anecdotal data" which amounts to singular observations and some other stuff which furthers the "natural history observation" of a starfish about which we know very little! So her observations along with some further observations from the 2017 research legs of the NOAA Okeanos Explorer, some further homework on my part and voila!
Let us learn MORE about the weird starfish Tremaster mirabilis!
1. It eats coral (possibly)
Probably one of the BIGGEST questions I had for such a strange looking sea star! As we'll see, this species is seen quite a bit and yet one of the most immediate questions about it seemed elusive!
Fortunately Katie Gale was quite lucky and was able to capture and image of this specimen of T. mirabilis taken by the fine people who operate the Remotely Operated Vehicle ROPOS/DFO. Gale's paper cites this image showing our mysterious starfish feeding on CORAL!
Specifically the octocoral Acanthogorgia!
BUT we have THIS image taken on Whaley Seamount during Leg 3 of the Okeanos Explorer mission at 875m!
Could its location on the rock surface be because its near a yummy food source? Another coral predator to add into our understanding of deep-sea coral ecosystems???
2. Time lapse movement and??
This probably seems like a common sense thing-we KNOW starfish move albeit VERY slowly. and can actually show some behavioral complexity (here)
Katie nabbed some of this GREAT video showing this species moving around its aquarium and more importantly NOT attacking this sea anemone in the aquarium.
This is actually an important point because we know MOST starfish CAN move but they often don't.
So, ACTUALLY capturing it doing so gives us some insight into what they do when we aren't watching them..
If we sped the movement of this "constellation" of Tremaster mirabilis up, would we still see no movement? or is it a Times Square of Deep-Sea Starfishes???
It USED to be that everything we knew about this species was taken from museum specimens and indeed we are STILL dependent on samples from throughout the world for new records of where many species live.
There is some question about whether or not this one species "Tremaster mirabilis" is actually one species or possibly several 'cryptic' species disguised by the fact that all the individuals observed all appear to be the same.
The external characters vary only slightly and its not unusual for a widely occurring species to demonstrate some... variation throughout its range. However, when we examine dead museum specimens we are often missing data such as color and behavior which can be important. Especially when its range where it lives is at least THREE oceans!
Tremaster is a moderately occurring deep-sea species.. occurring roughly between 200 and 600 m
Thanks to submersibles such as Okeanos Explorer we now have VIDEO and ON SITE (in situ) observations of LIVING animals!
Tremaster mirabilis is supposed to be one species..but as you can see there is a SLIGHT difference in body form..
North & Central Atlantic:An image from Nygren Canyon (top) and the lower image from Puerto Rico. Note there's more of a "skirt" around the edge versus the Pacific ones.
Throughout the tropical Pacific
And interesting brick colored one from Pau Pau seamount
and this interesting lighter colored individual from Baker Island..
Another place where Tremaster shows up? Antarctica and nearby...
Also had a nice Tremaster mirabilis (the ‘orange peel star’, we joke on #AugSurvey) pic.twitter.com/Mw38CCmtjY— Claude Nozeres (@cnozeres) September 16, 2016
4. There are Jurassic Fossils
As if dealing with living animals weren't enough, these intriguing beasts show a CLEAR relationship to at least TWO Jurassic fossils!
Bear in mind that the Jurassic is quite a LONG time ago. These sea star were living in the world's oceans while dinosaurs roamed the Earth!
AND like its modern descendents-these were quite spread out. Antarctica versus Switzerland!
Here's Protremaster felli, from the Jurassic of Antarctica! Described by Andrew Smith and T. H. Tranter in Geology Magazine 1985
|Image from the Wikipedia file: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mesotremaster_felli.jpg|
5. What does "Tremaster" actually mean? And"brood chambers"??
FINALLY! What does the genus "Tremaster" actually MEAN anyway?"aster" is obviously "star" but it turns out "Trema-" refers to "aperture" or OPENING!
When Addison Emery Verrill described this genus in 1880 he made allusion to these FIVE openings present in each interradius! These were one of the distinctive characters he used to diagnose his (then) new genus!! and "mirabilis" of course refers to "wonderful"
Here's a photo of the underside of a Tremaster specimen.. the openings are indicated by yellow circles!
So, as it turns out if you look more CLOSELY at these openings, they are actually OPENINGS into chambers present INSIDE and THROUGH the body wall and open up on the TOP:
Here are images of a dissected individual from the underside showing these openings (i.e. these are close ups of what's in the yellow circles above)
Thus, the openings appear to provide an opening for water to circulate into these chambers which could serve any number of purposes.. Possibly to aerate the "brood" chambers? Or perhaps they assist in the degree of arching the dome-like shape is capable of?? Filter feeding? Predation??
One of the great things about science is how it marches on! Its been 9 years (!!) since I wrote that first post and I LOVE that what in addition to what I've learned from reading, there has ALSO been genuine progress in learning NEW information on the biology of these animals.. And one of these days we will more FULLY understand it and its strange signficance!
For those who are interested, it was in the latest issue of Zootaxa, published online here (I don't believe the print version is out yet).
The paper focuses on a group of tropical shallow/deep goniasterid sea stars which include reef setting genera such as Neoferdina but also seldom studied genera such as Ferdina and their relatives. I actually ended up describing 3 additional new genera and MANY new species!
The whole thing is a lot to unpack.. and so here's some take away lessons that I thought I would share from writing it!
I've talked about this before.. the world is flooded with divers, photographers and interested people with cell phones all over the world!
Thanks to a combination of museum collections and divers I was able to identify and describe several new species and even add color variation to poorly known species in the group I published on! Many times these get misidentified as people try to "shoehorn" them into known species in field guides.
This new species for example, Neoferdina oni from the Philippines! I actually identified this species based on material collected by the California Academy of Sciences from one of their recent expeditions (such as this one)
The photographer of this specimen, Martha Kiser was incredibly helpful in allowing me to see her photos of this new species. You can see more of her work on Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/martykiser/sets/with/72157634344493477
Images such as this one gave me more insight into how the colors vary in already established species! and provide leads to possible NEW species...
2. The Mesophotic Zone: New studies and new Species!
There's a depth region in the ocean that falls just below "coral reef" (~30m) depth but just above the "deep sea" (above 200m).. that's roughly between 100 and 500 feet. More about this area here. and this entire website devoted to this area!
This area is also known as the "Twilight Zone" aka the "sub Reef area" and contains a fauna that is related and similar but distinctly different from those seen at the surface.
The California Academy of Sciences's research division as well as their Steinhart Aquarium have both been studying this area in the Philippines. In 2015, they collected this lovely beast, (and here was a news account showing it off) which I had also been observing in the Paris collections from areas throughout the Indo-Pacific!
I initially identified it as a familiar genus, Neoferdina, but eventually realized it was actually a separate and undescribed genus which I named Bathyferdina!
I've actually been describing Mesophotic Zone starfish for quite a long time. Here was Astrosarkus idipi from many years ago aka the "Great Pumpkin Starfish" and there were several more as well...
One important take away message: Describing new species is PART of understanding the biology of a NEW ecosystem. This was the same thing that happened with understanding all of those predatory coral starfish.. new species led to understanding each "character" of a new ecosystem!
3. Museums & Travel: Where the New Species Roam
Here's a neat new species from the western Indian Ocean-Madagascar and the east coast of South Africa.. Ferdina mena! Identified by the two distinctive bald patches present in each interradius (i.e. the "armpit") of the starfish.
Thanks to the stunning photos of "Optical Allusion" I was even able to find living images of this species in South Africa!
During one of my recent visits to Paris and the Museum national d'HIstorie naturelle in Paris, I discovered that this wasn't just an odd specimen with the twin bald, red spots in each interradius..it was present on ALL of the specimens collected from a collection made from Madagascar!!
and to return to the citizen science angle.. images on Flickr further showed this species in Mozambique as well as further color and pattern variation of this species from South Africa thanks to photographer Derek Keats and others!
So, somewhere in there, this seems to be consistent with the "21 years" which malacologist Dr. Philippe Bouchet has published as the average time it takes for a specimen to get from collection to publication!
This was an interesting lesson.
For one of the new species I had discovered, Paraferdina plakos, I only had one or two individuals on which to base my new species description. Were they the same? Was it variation? How do different individuals differ from one another? Are the defining characters the same across the species range?
SO, I took advantage of some aspects of the internet which I usually list as pet peeves...
1. Misidentified species made by people who don't want/need to figure out the correct species
2. Pictures of species collected by Internet aquarium and pet shops
I was actually able to make OVER TWENTY OBSERVATIONS of this species misidentified as the common "peppermint star"Fromia monilis!!
What does this tell us? Not ONLY are A LOT of new species yet to be discovered but we are ALREADY seeing them sold in the pet trade.. and with no correct identifications by scientists to recognize them, are they endangered? For a species that has just been described we know NOTHING bout its reproductive biology, populations, can they handle the strain of being "fished" for this trade???
Some EXCITING news! I have signed on to join NOAA's research vessel Okeanos Explorer as the Biology co-Lead for their July Expedition Broad casting from (approximately) July 13 to August 1!
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I have live-tweeted the Okeanos Explorer dives for a couple of years (here) in addition to providing identifications for the Facebook Screengrab Group as well as blogging about highlights observed during the dives (here).
I'm BACK! After a month at sea with 2.5 weeks worth of dives I've safely returned to "home base" in Washington DC! I was out in the central Pacific with NOAA's R/V Okeanos Explorer on their Laulima O Ka Moana expedition, exploring the deep-sea of the Marine National Monument in the Central Pacific!
1. Forest of the Weird: Land of the Glass Sponges!
This was probably the most amazing thing I have seen in awhile! (at least since that Basket Star community in the Marianas a few years ago!)
So, the key thing about nearly ALL Of these sponges? Many of them are what's called GLASS SPONGES aka members of the Hexactinellida. That means they have bodies which are made out of silicon oxide!
These often have bizarre and weird shapes. I have done a post about these before here in 2015.
Here's a highlight video of the discovery-basically water currents ran at an ideal rate at the top of this geologic feature making it IDEAL for what seems to be a huge abundance, if moderate diversity of glass sponge species!
Note also how all of them are turned into the current!! We were in this "forest of the weird" for the remainder of the dive (over an hour) so there was quite a lot of it..
...that they are CARNIVOROUS!!!
Wait.. WHAT? Yup. MOST sponges are filter feeders. But in this group, they use glue or spines to capture prey, which are then digested by the animal in question. We've seen different types of these carnivorous sponges before, including some possible new species.. These sponges kind of look like a feather.. a central stalk with fine hairs or spines coming off the sides
Similar to this species in the NOAA benthic inverts guide...
Here..they were present in HUGE densities.. alongside some frond-like bryozoans! and some stoloniferous zoanthids (a sea anemone like cnidarian) These actually seemed to be pretty thin at first but got bigger, longer and thicker as we encountered them!
Yes.. I suppose I'm overhyping them..but that's basically a "killing field" of carnivorous sponges! with these projecting into the
3. This Amazing Farreid Sponge/Acanthogorgia Wall!
Shallow-water dives can be VERY productive but because of the nature of Okeanos Explorer we tend not to do many of them relative to the really deep dives (>1000 m).
The one we did at Johnston Atoll did NOT disappoint!
This large block and several like it had this AMAZING side flanked on one side by sponges in the Farreidae, but then on another side covered by octocorals in the genus Acanthogorgia!
versus the "sponge side" which was relatively low current...
and many critters were to be found amongst the corals (such as this... sea slug)
3. Astrophiura! the "sea star ophiuroid" Probably one of the MOST memorable observations for me OUTSIDE of the starfishes was this weird little brittle star!
One of the videographers, Bob, saw it adjacent to the base of one of the sponges. And there it was plain as day!
These animals are TINY. Maybe dime sized. So, the D2 camera's caught a really RARELY ENCOUNTERED and SMALL species.. (about 2000 m depth)
Here is some imagery of as illustrated by H. Matsumoto.. It has rather famously been shown in echinoderm books as an example of a bizarre form. Its shape is very similar to those caymanostellids and is thought to be an adaptation to lying flush on the substrate..
Astrophiura kawamnrai n. sp.
4. Pumpkin Sized Echinothuriids Sea urchins!
This dive started out pretty uneventfully up slope along a cone, resulting in the discovery of a pretty amazing colony of plexaurid corals
Wikipedia lists the "largest" species at 14 inches (36 cm) but did not elaborate on species..(will need to check). But if that's the upper limit, then 8 inches is definitely monstrous!
This one was quite a surprise, because I had largely thought that sea slugs were limited to relatively shallow depths, much less PROPER nudibranchs which are overwhelmingly found in nearshore settings.
This looked pretty bigh on camera and was about 5 inches long? when we collected it..
Amazingly, there is one genus of proper nudibranch in not only the Antarctic but in the deep-sea: Bathydoris! I'm not sure quite yet what they eat but will find out!
How will the species we collected compare??? Stay tuned! (and thanks to Vanessa Knutson for her help with the ID!)
From pic I don't see rolled rhinophores & appears to have dorsal gill rather than side-reminds me of Bathydoris but w ex long ant. papillae!— Vanessa Knutson (@Bugs_and_Slugs) July 27, 2017
That's a quick recap of some of the non-sea star events..but I'll post more as opportunity permits! THANK YOU to the crew of the Okeanos Explorer, NOAA and my science team colleagues for inviting my participation!
Today.. some interesting etymology: i.e. the origins of scientific names!!!
I actually used to think that I was going to be writing about the origins of scientific names WAY more often then I ended up doing.. I wrote this post early on back in my first year (2006) here and I've written about some deep-sea starfish names (such as brisingids) with many more little bits about scientific names scattered throughout my long blog history!
The other day, someone asked me about one of the most familiar sea stars that I've worked with.. the Ochre star on the west coast of North America.. and shockingly. I didn't know.
I've also been working on some very old literature associated with the World Asteroidea Database and have been becoming familiar with many of the first descriptive papers used for species that are familiar to many a marine biologist!
So, this week: A short feature on FIVE (ish) names of very common sea stars encountered on the Pacific coast of North America!
What's interesting is that MANY of these species were NOT described by Americans or by American scientists. They were described by scientists in Europe! Many of whom probably regarded North America as exotic as Australia or "the Orient"..
But now, thanks to many, MANY field guides, textbooks, scientific studies and citizen science many of these names are practically a household name! But what do they mean? How does the original Latin/Greek break down..especially in the context of its taxonomic history.. HIDDEN SECRETS of the Pacific NW starfish fauna begin!
This species is of course, famous internationally. Pisaster ochraceus is the "poster child" for the keystone species concept among other things..and is well known on mussel beds..and while the other two species aren't as well known-they are still familiar species..
The name: Descriptions were quite brief at the time and many taxonomists never bothered to include the rationale for the names because scientific names are written in Latin and everyone who was considered educated at the time was already assumed to have KNOWN Latin..
Some accounts online suggested that the name meant "fish" but that makes NO sense (sorry Merriam Webster!) As Adam West's Batman would say "NOT SO FAST, old chum...."
Fortunately my former Masters degree advisor Tom Niesen (formerly of San Francisco State University) came through! He pointed out that the name ACTUALLY refers to the Latin for "pea" ... PISIUM!
and what about the species names?
Pisaster brevispinus is the easiest. "brevis" and "spinus" aka "brief or short spined" So, the short spined Pisaster. This makes reference to the short spines present on its body, which differ somewhat from the other Pisaster spp..
So TECHNICALLY... the common name for this species "Ochre stars" which is usually taken as a translation of the scientific "ochraceus" name actually means "pale yellow" (possibly orange) stars
holotype of this species was described in 1857 by William Stimpson. (specimen shown here)
It lives here in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History and it is CRAZY BIG, almost 2 feet across! (sadly, nothing this big will likely ever be encountered in the wild again..)
So, it was quite the monster for its time.
But they clearly had no reference to the greater variation of this species which is in most cases.. nowhere nearly as large as this
This kind of thing is the poster child example for why you need to study variation in a new species..especially if you're going to NAME it based on a characteristic seen only in a single individual!
2. Orthasterias koehleri
The genus name means: "Straight star" with "ortho" meaning "straight" likely in allusion to the spine series on the body which form regular series and "-asterias" referring to the animal.
Species? Probably what throws people the MOST about this animal is the species name.. "koehleri" and most people always try to find a Latin root for it.. except that its NOT a word that is made out of a Latin adjective!
This species was originally described as Asterias koehleri by a Swiss worker, Perceval de Loriol who mainly worked on fossils in the late 1800s. In 1897 he described this species from Vancouver Island and named it after prominent echinoderm worker, Professor Rene Koehler (photo courtesy of Dr. Dave Pawson, NMNH!) who taught at the University of Lyon and was a later president of the Société zoologique de France.
Interestingly, the species was described in 1897 but the genus, Orthasterias was not described until 1914. So, it was SEVENTEEN YEARS until the modern version of this name (Orthasterias koehleri) came to pass..
3. Evasterias troscheli
4. Stylasterias forreri
What does the name mean? The genus "Stylasterias" has the same root as "stylet" or "stilleto" referring to a "sharp stick" or needle. Plus "-asterias" (for sea star). The "Styl-" prefix alludes to the sharp spines covering the surface.
Who was the species named after? This was another species originally described by a European (in this case, Swiss) worker, Perceval de Loriol in 1887. This was collected and brought to deLoriol's museum by a "M. Forrer" (I'm unsure if "M" is the first initial or shorthand for "Messieur" but that is who the species is named for and was almost certainly described in a vacuum by deLoriol. Basically.. described purely as an object without much if any ecological information.
Again, this is a species which had a name for 30 years before being assigned its new name Stylasterias in 1914!
BONUS. Pycnopodia helianthoides& Rathbunaster californicus
Pycnopodia is arguably one of the most immediately recognizable species in the world given its size and unique appearance.. and interesting.. it wasn't named all at once!
This species was originally named as Asterias helianthoides and was described by J.F. Brandt, a German naturalist who apparently worked mostly in Russia in 1835 here. Asterias was the name they assigned to practically all sea stars back then.. with some species in different families sharing the same genus. and yeah.. if you looked it up the description is basically two short paragraphs long...in Latin. That's why taxonomy gets such a bad rap in the long run..
The species epithet helianthoides is Greek for "like a sunflower" making the common name Sunflower Star one of the best fitting of all of these older species.
On the other hand.. it wasn't until 1862 when a second biologist, an American named William Stimpson (who described the misnamed "Asterias giganteus" (now Pisaster giganteus) rightly thought that this animal belonged in a new and separate taxonomic category..
Stimpson named it Pycnopodia, which in Greek translates to "pycnos" as dense or thick and "podia" referring to its tube feet.. Hence "Dense Tube feet", almost certainly in reference to its very numerous and abundant podia..
Stimpson was actually SO impressed by this animal that in the original description of the genus, Pycnopodia he actually created a new FAMILY to accomodate it: the Pycnopodiidae. This new family hasn't been widely accepted but hasn't quite been disproven either...
Pycnopodia has a SISTER species in deep-water called Rathbunaster californicus.. and I wrote a WHOLE blog about it and its name here. So go check it out!
Some common trends then...
1. Many of these species were named by Europeans in the 19th Century. Many of them had almost certainly NEVER even been to North America!
2. Many of the genera? Described in the early 20th Century probably in 1914, by Addison Emery Verrill.
3. There were a LOT of names which were based on a bunch of old European guys honoring each other. What you're seeing here doesn't even include ALL of the species that were described. It was typical of a lot of taxonomists from this era to oversplit.. that is designate a new species based on some highly variable detail. These "oversplit" names were often deemed to be redundatt by later
authors and made obsolete.
4. One important lesson? Try to see some variation in the species before assigning it a name based on that one character!
For my inaugural 2018 post: a MYSTERY!
I've written about the genus Luidia before.. these are predatory sand stars which are found all around the world.
They can vary in appearance and in some places they are very abundant.. Most species are shallow and occur in temperate tropical habitats. Although many species are five rayed.. some such as L. ciliaris can have seven or more arms. Some species in the tropical Indo-Pacific have very striking patterns and can reach almost 2 feet in diameter!
Luidia ciliaris is found pretty much only in the North Atlantic although it has likely close-relatives in nearby areas. This species is regularly seen by divers in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and etc..
|Image from http://www.european-marine-life.org/30/photo-luidia-ciliaris-wb01.php|
Interestingly, he noticed that THIS one had a VERY unusual banding or strange segmentation on the arms!
|Image from http://www.european-marine-life.org/30/photo-luidia-ciliaris-wb01.php|
|Photo by Chris Orr via Twitter|
Yeah, what about this, just found at Lamlash beach, massive starfish pic.twitter.com/2FUbpnio9r— Chris Orr (@ChrisOrr_ELC) July 22, 2017
(thanks to Andy Jackson and Bernard Picton!)
1. Museums Remain THE HUB for discoveries!
Everything from natural history surveys, research expeditions, to simple donations by well-travelled museum patrons you can find all manner of important specimens that result in new species, rarely found species, juveniles and even specimens showing ecological interactions!
My recent travel has been VERY fruitful. Mainly resulting from recent deep-sea expeditions to exotic lands!
In the MNHN in Paris, their recent expeditions to the Indian Ocean, particularly their expeditions to Madagascar and nearby areas have resulted in a forthcoming paper where I will describe over a dozen new species of goniasterid sea stars! and there were more....
The Museum Victoria in Melbourne for example includes recent work by Australian colleagues including Dr. Tim O'Hara returned last year with thousands of specimens, ranging from worms to sea stars to fishes! from a survey of the deep-sea habitats of Australia!
Their work recovered hundreds of new records and many new species of sea stars. Its gonna take awhile to work that up!! As I've mentioned before.. prior work has recorded that it takes on average about 21 years for a specimen to go from collection to shelf to publication!
I've been ahead of the curve in describing many of these species!
2. When a Good Thing Becomes a Challenge: Space the Ongoing Frontier!
So. Here's the thing. A reality of ANY kind of collection. At some point, if it is growing at a healthy clip, EVENTUALLY you will have problems with space.
That is to say.. not enough of it. You have more and more specimens.. and eventually every shelf, every inch of space gets used up.
Its not unusual for some museums to literally inherit a collection from ANOTHER collection, often from universities or other academic institutions, instantly doubling the contents but also the workload and burden on resources.
This is an issue that has come up at EVERY museum collection I have visited!
Museums are often judicious in what they accept..but in other cases they are obliged either legally or scientifically to accept valuable specimens. Sometimes museums are faced with inheriting important historical collections-lots of type specimens, rare or even extinct (non fossil) species..
3. Databasing & Cataloging! Making Collections Available to everyone!
This is, of course, a natural function of any natural history museum collection.
Keeping track of what's available.. BUT lately there has been a HUGE push to make sure that materials have not only been cataloged and database but ALSO available to the scientific public!
This has been especially important for historically important scientific collections such as the one at Paris, which has specimens that have been around since the 1800s and the time of Lamarck!
Museums have taken to making creative use of volunteers and citizen scientists to help with cataloging specimens. I've seen "cataloging parties" where volunteers help to sort and catalog specimens en masse (simple locality data) into a database leaving the more complex entry tasks to the staff.
Museums with Online Catalogs!
Museum national d'Historie Naturelle: https://science.mnhn.fr/all/search
Invertebrate Zoology at the NMNH, Smithsonian Institution: https://collections.nmnh.si.edu/search/iz/
Invertebrate Zoology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco: http://researcharchive.calacademy.org/research/izg/iz_coll_db/index.asp
Collections Search at Museum Victoria: https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/search
4. Digital Imagery: More of it and its increasing significance!
The last few years have seen a HUGE uptick in the abundance and availability of imagery.
Everything from live-streamed deep-sea biology such as Okeanos Explorer : http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/media/exstream/exstream.html (returning in April!)
Controversy has been found as some scientists have argued imagery itself can be used in stead of specimens: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/10/bug-species-photo/409108/
But more commonly throughout the museum world I've merely seen that almost EVERYPLACE I've been has uploaded imagery of their collection, making those specimens available to anyone with internet access.
This is particularly important for those ever so rare specimens known as TYPES (here for full explanation) basically the specimen or specimens designated by the original researcher which defines a new species.
"Digital images of the specimens will make it MUCH easier for people to see the specimen so we don't need to ship it or so they won't need to visit!"
Others have expressed the opinion that these images will DOOM the museum!
"Digital images of the specimens will make it MUCH easier for people to see the specimen so we won't need to ship it or so they won't visit!
4a. Biodiversity Heritage Library!
I remember the olden terrible days before the days of the Internet..but ESPECIALLY before the days when the Biodiversity Heritage Library was available!!
At the very least, having to carry along the photocopy or notes of the huge taxonomic monograph was just a huge pain in the ass. Unfortunately, especially for marine invertebrates such as echinoderms the really IMPORTANT taxonomic references tend to be in huge oversized, heavy folios like these...
thanks to the online version of these books I can now carry a global-scale library for starfish taxonomy on my laptop.. almost anywhere in the world! Not everyone has a Smithsonian or Paris-level library.. but now you can.
A list of starfish BHL references can be found here: http://echinoblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/classic-echinoderm-starfish-taxonomy.html
5. Shipping & Customs! New Challenges!
What might surprise many people is just how IMPORTANT shipping and customs regulations are to museum "business."
Specimens regularly ship back and forth between natural history museums, mostly as loans for researchers to study specimens they wouldn't normally be able to study. Specimens would be analogous to rare books being sent back and forth between different libraries so that scholars in different parts of the world can refer to then..
Shipping unfortunately always seems to come with some risk..and more lately. Scientific specimens in preservative run afoul of safety shipping and biosecurity protocols. Many specimens, such as corals, are now protected by international law, making them difficult to ship. and so on and so on...
In one high profile case in 2017, Australian customs officials who were ignorant or unaware of the value of museum specimens destroyed unique and priceless French holotypes... which led to an international incident.
Undoubtedly.. there are those who would say that nothing I've summarized here is necessarily new...and perhaps to the museum worker or working taxonomist..probably not. But the common travails of the natural history museum to the public are often hidden and I hope this helps to communicate the challenges that these museums face in the 21st Century!
Here's the original, very static heavy video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV5H1qNwFKo
and here is the "cleaned up" version which was released in October 2017...
These and other venues reported it with such inaccurate hyperbole as "Incredible moment starfish WALKS down the beach after getting stranded on the sand!!"with the word "INCREDIBLE" being dropped as if this was somehow aliens landing on the Earth for the first time!
But sadly, what was happening here wasn't really THAT momentous and in fact was pretty sad.
There was no information on what was happening, what species this was or the context of this whole thing... So here's my attempt to shed some light on this..
1. What species is this? And how does it live normally?
You can read lots about Luidia in a blog I wrote here in 2014!
Long story short..they eat snails, clams and other small critters in the sand. They can bury themselves in the top part of the sediment where they live.
This species in the waters of the tropical Atlantic on the US coast.. Florida, South Carolina, etc. are commonly encountered and commonly seen on beaches..
2. Seen on BEACHES? Why is THAT??
How did this individual end up on the beach? Likely due to a mass stranding following a storm, which I've written about here... But here's a video of such an occurrence featuring many, MANY of this species stranded along the shoreline
3. What makes them so vulnerable?
Basically these sea stars don't have a lot of "hold" on the surface because their tube feet are pointed rather than suckered. Their little tube feet are modified to help them efficiently dig into the sand or other sediment both to help them feed and to hide them from potential predators..
BUT when big waves or currents come along.. they can be swept away and taken to hostile environs such as this seashore..
Bear in mind that this species is quite abundant and while its unclear what these "natural disasters" mean for the population of these animals, I wouldn't be surprised if the recovery was relatively quick given how many of them there are..
4. What do they look like alive and "normal"???
Here is a healthy individual of this species moving naturally underwater, albeit near the beachfrot
So, its literally been months since the original "crawling" video posted but I STILL have this being sent to me with comments about "HOW WONDERFUL IS NATURE OCEAN" or "AMAZING OCEAN CREATURE" etc. etc... when in truth this video exploits this animal desperately trying to get back to the ocean
There's an important consideration here: Sea stars operate using a unique series of tubes in their body called the water vascular system which operates primarily using hydraulic pressure throughout the arms and so forth. This is how they move and operate all of their tube feet and so on...
The water vascular system NEEDS SEAWATER TO OPERATE.
Fluid is still required for movement AND survival. Water carries oxygen and other necessities, such as food and etc. throughout the body.
|Photo by Karen Osborn|
I have honored this tradition with polychaete posts!
2015: Five Things you probably didn't know about polychaete worms: http://echinoblog.blogspot.com/2015/07/five-things-you-probably-didnt-know.html
2016: Five GREAT Polychaete Names!
I missed 2017 because I was out at sea with the R/V Okeanos Explorer!
But I've blogged PLENTY about polychaetes to make it up!
A post about Polychaete Jaws!
My post about "Who Named the Bobbit Worm?" (which actually involves Kristian Fauchald)
Stunning Polychaete Photos by Arthur Anker!
and Gorekia, a polychaete which lives INSIDE an urchin!
So, for 2018 I am BACK for #POLYCHAETE DAY! So for this year.. a fun topic:
POLYCHAETE WORMS THAT SWIM!!
So, #2 to #5 are pelagic taxa.. that is they live exclusively (or mostly) in the 3-dimensional oceanic space ! They generally don't live on the bottom of the ocean floor. and so, they have adaptations which help them to live in this unique and vast area! as we'll see...
These are apparently VERY successful with a widespread distribution all around the world. There are apparently 35 to 50 species in this genus! About 15 of these occur in the subgenus Tomopteris (Johnstonella) which I suspect means there is some contention over how many there are..
BUT I can tell ya' this much! The NAME Tomopteris is Latin for "Split wing" which alludes to the paddles on each of their little legs! and the fact that it is apparently "cut" into two halves..
Tomopteris is apparently a PREDATORY worm, with at least one species indicated as a predator on arrow worms !
and as seen in many swimming species they are BIOLUMINESCENT! I don't have great shots of their glowie powers..but they ARE very photogenic animals.. so here's some video...
4. Alciopid Worms!
|Image by Karen Osobrn NMNH StreamCode SMS: https://twitter.com/InvertebratesDC/status/881237769762349056|
Alciopid worms are known or being PREDATORY. They have an ENORMOUS proboscis which are presumably used to feed ON other prey...
and They are known for having ENORMOUS EYES which are complex in a manner analogous to vertebrate eyes with lenses, irises, corneas and such.. So, they actually have well-developed VISION which is thought to assist in prey avoidance..
Here is a GORGEOUS chart on alciopid eyes via the Biodiversity Heritage Library Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarinaDSLR/status/575528089242959872
here was a nice back and forth about this deep-sea alciopid worm on Twitter!
BIG eyes on this one! An alciopid polychaete in our Pacific abyssal samples #WormWednesday#ABYSSLINEpic.twitter.com/A9QQbKUQ9z— Helena Wiklund (@helena_wiklund) September 27, 2017
Here's some swimming video! (thanks to Jackson Chu!)
3. The Deep-sea Pig Butt Worm! Chaetopterus pugaporcinus
I'll be honest. There's not much that I can add to this which wasn't already said by MBARI when the species was described:https://www.mbari.org/a-worm-like-no-other/
These are part of a genus of segmented worms called Chaetopterus, most of which aren't actually swimming species.. They kinda look like this: Many of them live in a paper-like tube..
This pelagic species was unusal in having swollen segments wich gave it an unusual appearance...And yes..the Latin name epithet "pugaporcinus".. is LITERALLY translated as "Pig Butt"
2. Swima bombaviridis! Swimming bomber worms! and relatives...(the Acrocirridae)
So, this is kind of a "two for one" deal because members of this one family of swimming polychaetes, the Acrocirridae actually have TWO very interesting members
Here were the "Squid worms" Teuthidodrilus samae whose very formidable appearance got them a notable write up in National Geographic among other places../ (https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/11/101124-squid-worm-new-species-science-teuthidodrilus-biology/)
Karen Osborn and her associates later discovered ANOTHER member of this group delivered glowing green bombs as a defense mechanism!
Here was a nice video of that discovery via California Academy of Sciences & MBARI!
Time for a Swima! #Okeanos recently saw this swimming polychaete, in aptly named genus, Swima. Join us for another dive later today! pic.twitter.com/VAOy9WviOY— NOAA Ocean Explorer (@oceanexplorer) September 19, 2017
and of course..we have seen other members of this group on Okeanos Explorer..
|Engima Seamount 2016: https://twitter.com/WPolyDb/status/724026014725099520|
FINALLY.. the last category of swimming segmented worms is kind of a mixed bag. This includes worms while swimming which are NOT a specific group and NOT a group of worms that swims its entire life..
This is the unusual phenomena in polychaetes known as EPITOKY!
This is the reproductive phase for many polychaete worms in which they physically change and shift into a swimming form or mode! these species typically are adapted to bottom living.
Presumably this sudden ability to swim goes hand in hand with dispersal of the reproductive products.
Here for example.. we have an example of a sexually mature worm carrying its products while also swimming! aka engaging in pelagic life mode.
This change in life mode can be a bit of a surprise when your 2 foot long bristle worms are suddenly swimming around like giant snakes!
|from the original blog: http://mrlavalava.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_archive.html|