03 October 2007

Interesting animal meme

Christopher of Catalogue of Organisms tagged me with this one.

An interesting animal I've had
I once had a chiton (34 years ago, to be specific). I had found it on a rock in the Aegean Sea near the resort town of Kuşadası in western Turkey. I had no idea how to keep a chiton, so I simply put it in a small container of sea water and expected it to survive without any food. Perhaps I thought it was a filter-feeder of some sort. The poor thing did live 58 days before expiring. I still have the notes I kept, which include a drawing of the chiton.


My handwriting indicates that there were 8 plates, the standard number, and describes the girdle covering the chiton's body on which are the plates: brown, yellow part, when necessary it can fold, but it is not soft.

An Interesting Animal I Ate
My late aunt was fond of telling this story. One day when I was very young, perhaps 1 or 2 years old, I had been playing on the floor by myself and my aunt, who was unmarried and lived with us, was in a next room. At some point, she heard me choking and gagging and ran over to my rescue. She stuck her finger down into my throat and pulled out the bits and pieces of a large cockroach. It was probably an oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis) that were common in the houses in the town we lived in back then in Turkey. I survived the incident without any ill effects, but have no recollection of what the cockroach tasted like.

An Interesting Animal in a Museum

Helix apsersa-scalariform

This is a "scalariform" Helix aspersa shell from the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. Despite what the label says, it is not a "variety" in a taxonomical sense. It is an abnormal shell in which the body whorl grew away from the spire. I don't know what causes this condition, which is well-known; it may be due to a genetic condition or an injury to the snail. Here is what a normal Helix aspersa shell looks like.

An interesting thing I did with or to an animal
Bdelloid rotifers can survive under rather drastic conditions, for example, in the absence of water or in a frozen state. To test the effect of air on their survival in a dry state, I did some experiments several years ago. I took some dry lichen and mushroom pieces that I knew had bdelloids in them, stored them at a very low humidity (<1%) in air or in argon gas at 21 °C. In lichen stored for 5 months, the survival rates were ~40% in argon compared to only ~5% in air. Amazingly, in lichen kept in air at -20 °C, 75% survived for up to 18 months. The results have been published (Örstan, A. Hydrobiologia 387/388:327-331, 1998) and you may download a copy of the paper from here.

I still have some samples left from that experiment (which had started around 1995) in the freezer of my kitchen refrigerator. One of these days I am going to see if any live bdelloids are left in them.

An Interesting Animal in its Natural Habitat
Here is an ordinary, yet interesting, eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus).


Why are rabbits interesting? Because they engage in cecotropy, which is the eating by an animal of its own feces for nutritional purposes. Don't try this at home, unless you are a rabbit! In the case of rabbits, it is a completely normal process; they have evolved to do it. Read more about cecotropy here and here.

If you have come this far and haven't already done this meme, consider yourself tagged.


Constantine said...

Hi Aydin,
your chiton was undoubtedly an Ischnochiton rissoi.

pascal said...

I managed to complete this meme without the mention of a single snail :)