31 October 2007

"Spineless are atheist" says Kevin

Follow the link to The Other 95% and listen to the backyard bard Kevin's newest song That's Why the Spineless Are Atheist.

In the meantime, I am alerting the FBI, man.

Wind turbines on the way home from Pittsburgh


These wind turbines suddenly came into view on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last Sunday. I slammed on the breaks; luckily, there were no cars behind me and the shoulder alongside the road was quite wide. I grabbed my camera and got out to take a couple of photos while the traffic was zooming past me.

It had been about an hour since I had left Pittsburgh, but, otherwise, I didn't really know where I was. To remedy the situation, I also recorded the GPS coordinates.


In the satelllite photo from Google Earth, my location is marked near the upper lefthand corner, while the 4 wind turbines are indicated by the red arrows near the lower righthand corner. Google Earth shows a 5th turbine further below, but it is not in my photos and I don't think it was visible to me from where I was.

So there I was.

30 October 2007

Sold another picture

For the 2nd time within a little more than a year I have sold, actually licensed, one of my photographs that was first published on this blog. The first photo I sold was that of a firefly larva eating a snail.

I have now licensed to a photo agency in Florida the photograph of the juvenile Helix aspersa that is the 3rd picture from the top in this post. It will be printed in a biology textbook next year.

29 October 2007

Bootleg proceedings of the 1st OVUM meeting

The first annual one-day meeting of the Ohio (River) Valley Unified Malacologists (OVUM), organized by Tim Pearce and Charlie Sturm, took place at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh on 27 October 2007. There were 19 participants, 14 of whom gave presentations. Despite the original announcement that there would be no "abstracts, or publications", we were asked to submit a brief abstract during the meeting and were told that they will be published "somewhere". So, before the official version comes out, here is my bootleg version of the speakers and very brief summaries of what I thought they talked about, in order of presentation.

Tim Pearce (CMNH): When a snail dies in a forest and if there is no malacologist around how long does its shell persist? The empty shells of some snails could last for several years.

Charlie Sturm (CMNH): Life and times of Juan Jose Parodiz (1911-2007) who was the curator of mollusks at the Carnegie Museum between 1952 and 1981 and the emeritus curator after that.

Aydin Örstan (CMNH): Stepwise growth in the land snail family Hygromiidae. One of the species mentioned was Trochoidea pyramidata.

Francisco Borrero (Cincinnati Museum of Natural History): Research projects he has been working on, including the ecology of the freshwater mussels in Ohio streams and the systematics and biogeography of South American non-marine mollusks.

Sue Thompson (PA Fish and Boat Commission): Activities of the Three Rivers Ecological Research Center.

Beth Meyer (PA Natural Heritage Program): Results of the survey of the freshwater mussels of Allegheny River. Areas with no signs of dredging had higher species richness and abundances.

Darran Crabtree (The Nature Conservancy): Status of the freshwater mussels in the French Creek Basin in northwest Pennsylvania.

Andy Turner (Clarion University): Behavioral modifications of the freshwater snails Physa acuta and Helisoma trivolvis by their predators (fish and crayfish). If fish are present, the snails use open habitats less and hide under rocks, but if crayfish are present, the snails use open habitats more.

Josh Auld (University of Pittsburgh): Resource allocation plasticity in hermaphrodite snails. In the presence of predatory crayfish, Physa acuta delays reproduction, but increases growth. In the absence of predators, selfing snails start to reproduce several days after the snails with mates do. When crayfish are present, however, this waiting time is eliminated.

Mary Walsh (PA Natural Heritage Program): A database they are creating for survey data.

Rachel Mair (Fish and Wildlife Service): Activities at the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery in West Virginia. They are also raising freshwater mussels for releasing into the wild.

Ralph Taylor (Marshall University): Surveys of freshwater mussels and gastropods in the Ohio River where some spots are heavily infested with zebra mussels.

Jerry Lang (CMNH; Butler County Community College): Surveys of the unionid mussels, the populations of which have been going down. He also presented his hypothesis (included here with his permission) that beavers, who are otherwise known to be strict vegetarians, may occasionally eat freshwater mussels.

Bob Winters: Freshwater mussels in the Duck River in Tennessee and the threats they are facing.

The next year's OVUM meeting will be organized by Francisco Borrero at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History.

One of the shy participants at the OVUM meeting.

28 October 2007

Gas mileage of Toyota Yaris

On my return trip from Pittsburgh today with my new 2008 Toyota Yaris I covered 225 miles with a half a tank of gas (5.55 gallons). That averages out to 40.5 miles per gallon.

My average speed for the entire trip, including some city driving and a 10-min stop, was 60 m/h. The sticker that came with the car gives the average highway gas mileage as 35 mpg with a range of 29 to 41 mpg. According to the U.S. government figures, the average highway gas mileage for the 2007 Yaris is 36 mpg.

26 October 2007

Off to Pittsburgh


Another weekend trip. Later today I will leave for Pittsburgh 215 miles away, according to Google Maps. I will drive the nu kar. Let's see how she will perform on the highway.

I have my 15-min talk ready for the first OVUM meeting tomorrow; the flash drive with the PowerPoint presentation has already been packed. I also have a looong box of cheap Belgian chocolates shaped like seashells; in fact, the box is almost as long as Marissa-Cat, tail included. I saw it in a local store yesterday and thought it would be perfect to take to a mollusk meeting for everyone to enjoy. I hope they are half decent.

belgian chocolate

I will return on Sunday. The next post will be either Sunday nite or on Monday.

Be good while I am gone.

25 October 2007

5 unique statements meme

This is my variation of the Google meme that I saw at Abnormal Interests. In the original version, you list 5 statements for each of which a Google search returns your blog as the number one hit.

In my version, you list 5 statements each of which according to Google exists only in a post on your blog but nowhere else on the entire Internet (the occurrences of the same statements in links to your post are acceptable). Try to come up with interesting statements.

Here is my selection of 5 statements unique to this blog as of today.

larvae are mostly aquatic and feed on small children

even crap can become interesting, believe it or not

one needs to cut open the penis

The bishops are insane

Ricketts' nonteleology

24 October 2007

Another successful dissection

trochoidea dissection
Scale is in millimeters.

Trochoidea pyramidata is a hygromiid land snail (family Hygromiidae) widespread in southern Europe, including Turkey. Their shells can grow up to about 11 mm in diameter. One preserved specimen I had was 6.4 mm in diameter. I needed to know for a manuscript I am writing if the snails that small had fully developed genitalia. So, a good portion of last nite was spent dissecting it.

Despite the usual achy back that I got from sitting over the microscope for several hours, it was a good dissection. I was able to remove almost the entire set of the reproductive organs of the snail. Here they are pinned down and labelled. The faint scale along the right hand side is in millimeters.

trochoidea genitala

Now compare it with Germain's 1930 drawing from Faune de France, vol. 21, Mollusques Terrestres et Fluviatiles. Every part Germain's specimen had was also present in my specimen except the most proximate part, the gonad, which I didn't remove. I even had an extra muscle, presumably a retractor (no, it is not the vas deferens), attached to the bursa copulatrix that Germain didn't illustrate. The penis and the epiphallus of my specimen appear to be fully developed. The only difference is that the mucus glands (gm in Germain's drawing) are much smaller in my specimen. Does that mean that my specimen was not fully developed to reproduce yet?


Incidentally, I will discuss this project on Saturday at the OVUM meeting.

23 October 2007

3 more pictures from my trip to Montreal earlier this month

Shadows of Montreal

shadows of montreal

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9, Number 9...


Strongman Louis Cyr


22 October 2007

An isopod from Canada: Porcellio spinicornis

Porcellio spinicornis

Among the creatures I photographed and collected in my sister's backyard in Montreal when I was visiting them earlier this month was this isopod. I have identified it as Porcellio spinicornis. Like the snails from the same location, these isopods are also introductions from Europe.

Before we any further, here is a disclaimer: I am a novice at identifying isopods, so I may be totally wrong. I have relied on the shape of the frontal lobe of the head (red arrows in the pictures below) to distinguish P. spinicornis from P. scaber. Both of those species have been recorded from Quebec, Canada1. The frontal lobe of the head is supposed to be rounded in P. spinicornis and triangular in P. scaber.

porcellio spp
A: Porcellio spinicornis from Montreal; B: Porcellio scaber from Maryland. Both specimens were photographed alive. Arrows point at the frontal lobe of the head.

My authority on this is Edney2, from which source I adapted the following drawing. Compare it with the photos above.


1Joan Jass & Barbara Klausmeier. 2001. Terrestrial Isopod (Crustacea: Isopoda) Atlas for Canada, Alaska, and the Contiguous United States. Milwaukee Public Museum Contributions in Biology and Geology #95: 1-105.
2E.B. Edney. 1953. The woodlice of Great Britain and Ireland. Proc. Linn. Soc. London, 164:49.

OVUM will be this Saturday

The first annual one-day meeting of the Ohio (River) Valley Unified Malacologists (OVUM), organized by Tim Pearce and Charlie Sturm, will be at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday, 27 October 2007 from 10AM until the last presentation (to end by 5PM at the latest).

From the original e-mail announcement:

The meeting is open to professionals, amateurs, and students; basically anyone who has an interest in mollusks. OVUM has no dues, officers, abstracts, or publications.

Light refreshments such as fruit, bagels, coffee, tea, and water will be available from 9-10:00AM. The meeting will be in the American Indian Room on the third floor of the Museum...

Presentations should be limited to 15 minutes. A computer projector and overhead projector will be available. Presentations are encouraged from amateurs, professionals, and students. Presentations are informal and can cover any topic relating to mollusks. Current research, a recent collecting trip, or an interesting specimen are all likely topics for a presentation. You can notify us ahead of time or the morning of the meeting if you would like to speak on some topic.

At noon, we will break for lunch. There are numerous restaurants within walking distance of the Museum as well as within the Museum. A list of restaurants will be made available the day of the meeting. Information on local hotels can be obtained from Charlie Sturm.

The collection and/or library of the Section of Mollusks will be available after the presentations are concluded. Those interested in availing themselves of these opportunities should contact Tim Pearce (PearceT AT CarnegieMNH DOT org; phone 412-622-1916) or Charlie Sturm (csturmjr AT pitt DOT edu) in advance.

If you have any questions regarding the meeting or the Carnegie Museum, please contact Charlie Sturm.

This is as casual as a scientific meeting can get. If you are working with mollusks, this is a good opportunity to present a short update of what you've been up to lately and pass some ideas around; if you are interested in mollusks, but don't know much about them, this will be a perfect chance to get yourself initiated into the wonderful and slimy world of snails, slugs and octopuses.

I will be there.

21 October 2007

A lentil mystery

While getting ready to cook some lentils recently, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. I had the dry lentils in a pot. I picked up the pot by its handle, tilted it slightly and then shook it gently to move the lentils around. I was looking for anything that might have been mixed with the lentils that I would rather not eat, usually bits of unidentified objects and an occasional tiny piece of rock.

Instead, I noticed that the shaking of the pot had forced the lentils into a peculiar configuration. There was an irregular band of lentils standing on their sides surrounded by mostly flat ones.


Here is a close-up of the "zone of sideways lentils".


I think what's going on is that when the lentils are pushed against each other they flip sideways and stack up against the denser pile in the lower end of the pot. If you look at the 1st picture carefully you will some other clusters of lentils turned sideways. There is probably some sort of lentil packing density optimization process (LPDOP) going on here. The densest packing may be achieved when there is a mixture of sideways and flat lentils.

Here is the finished product. The orange things are pieces of temperature-tested tomatoes from the backyard. It was good.


19 October 2007

Lessons learned from a specimen of Spisula solidissima


I don't normally go out of my way to collect marine mollusks, but if I am at a beach and there are shells everywhere, then I don't miss the opportunity either. This complete specimen of the Atlantic surfclam (Spisula solidissima) at the beach at the Assateague Island National Seashore last Friday afternoon was too good to leave behind.


Subsequent close inspection revealed a prominent varix across the top of each valve. The older shell above the varix had lost most of its periostracum and thus was white, while the younger shell below it still retained the yellowish-brown skin. This color difference and the growth of new shell material out from under the old shell make it look like a smaller pair of shells had been glued on top of a larger pair.


Of course, on the inside surface of the shells there is no break, but only a lumpy ridge corresponding to the position of the varix on the outside.

According to this NOAA review of life history and habitat characteristics of S. solidissima, growth of these clams is not uniform over the year, which is not surprising since lower water temperatures in the winter are expected to slow down or completely stop growth. The varix on these valves indicates that the occupant clam did stop growing at least once. I am otherwise not familiar with these clams and don't know if the presence of such a prominent varix on their shells is a common occurrence. However, I have noticed that the specimen pictured on Plate 32p of Abbott's American Seashells (1954) seems to have a similar looking lighter colored section.


The above magnified picture was taken from below the varix; the umbo was towards the top. The edge of the varix sticks up ~0.3 mm above the shell surface. Clearly, the new shell started growing out from under the old shell.

In these 2 posts, here and here, I explained that when a land snail resumes shell growth following a break, new shell starts growing below the old shell and slightly behind the break. Now we know that the same thing happens in bivalves. This too is not surprising, since gastropods and bivalves are evolutionarily related and even though they diverged from each other hundreds of millions of years ago, they still seem to use similar shell-building mechanisms and are therefore subject to more or less similar constraints and limitations when it comes to building their homes.

Yummy blue cheese from King Island


I have recently discovered another good cheese at Whole Foods Market: King Island's Roaring 40s blue cheese. Unlike some other blues, Roaring 40s is not crumbly; it is firm yet has a creamy mouthfeel. And the flavor is robust. It was love at first bite; Roaring 40s quickly became one of my favorite cheeses.

King Island is a small island between Australia and Tasmania. I would like to go there one day.

The previous good cheese review was of drunken goat cheese.

18 October 2007

Some sort of defensive moth fluid on my fingers


That was a live pink spotted hawkmoth (Agrius cingulatus also cingulata) on my fingers. After I picked it up, it discharged-I think from its anus-that orange varnish-like liquid on my fingers. I suppose it was a defensive fluid, but it didn't bother my skin. I didn't think of smelling my fingers, which is a good thing, because my nose could have fallen off or something.

There were several of these large and pretty moths on the side of a wooden building at the Assateague Island National Seashore last Friday afternoon. My friend ZoAnn showed them to me and she has already written about them on her blog.

The moths were rather lethargic; the one I picked up didn't even attempt to fly away. I think they were dying. I did find a dead one on the grass next to the wall they were on.

17 October 2007

Pictures from high above 6: Lowville, New York

North is to the right.

I took this picture earlier this month on the way to Montreal from Washington, DC. If it weren't for the meandering river visible near the town I would have had a hard time recognizing it in Google Earth. The disappointingly low-res image from Google Earth is below. The coordinates for the approximate center of Lowville are 43.7878°N, 75.4873°W.

Rotated image; north is to the right.

Previous picture from high above was West Gilgo Beach.

16 October 2007

How come I never get to find a snail like this?


A "lady snail" from Ruthenica, Russian Malacological Journal (vol. 16, p. 92, December 2006). Not only is she cute but she is also talented. She can read with her tentacular eyes while keeping an eye on malacologists with her other pair.

15 October 2007

What are these birds?


I am not much of a birder. I own a couple of bird books, but the number of birds that I can identify by sight is about 10 if "gull" or "some type of hawk" count as identifications.

I photographed this flock last Friday afternoon from the beach at the Assateague Island National Seashore. I just spent about 15 minutes with my bird books to no avail. So much for my birding talents. Someone please identify them. They were quite far when I took the picture, but I think there are enough clues in the pictures. Thanks.


14 October 2007

Mole crab

mole crab

These things, about 2-3 cm long, were very common on the beach at the Assateague Island National Seashore, the Maryland side of the Assateague Island, late Friday afternoon. I figured they were some sort of crab, but didn't exactly know what they were until tonite when I found the following drawing in Lippson & Lippson, Life in the Chesapeake Bay (1984).


According to Lippson & Lippson, the mole crabs (Emerita talpoida) live buried in the sand within the zone of the breaking waves. Every single one I saw was dead. Had I known that there were probably many live ones buried right under our feet, I would have searched for them. Oh well, now I have one excuse to go back there...

12 October 2007

Off to Chincoteague

Yet another weekend trip! Later today I will leave with my son for the town of Chincoteague on the east coast. We will come down from the north of DC and follow the red route, about 200 miles, to our destination.


We will first stop at the Assateague Island National Seashore, about 30 miles north of Chincoteague, and spend some time with my friend ZoAnn who has been camping there since the beginning of the week. Zo writes O. B. Sirius: A Not-So Serious Sort of Blog and has already put up some pictures of the famous feral horses of that area.

We will probably spend most of Saturday and Sunday morning at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge where we will watch and photograph the wildlife, including the snails-there are some great tidal mud flats there. We may even take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

The return trip home will be Sunday afternoon. Regular postings will resume probably on Monday.

Be good while I am gone.

11 October 2007

Quick, get under the slug!


This is another example of what in a previous post I referred to as interphylar huddling, the clustering of animals belonging to different phyla, in my examples, slugs and isopods.

Isopods exhibit a behavior called thigmokinesis, the tendency to maximize the body surface areas in contact with the substrate. According to Sutton (Woodlice, 1972), the end result of thigmokinesis is increased protection against desiccation and predation. The attempts of these isopods to crawl under the slug when the rock is lifted up is an example of thigmokinetic behavior.


These animals were under a large rock in my backyard. The slug was probably a Lehmannia sp., while the isopods appear to have been either Armadillidium nasatum or A. vulgare (or both). Both isopod species live in my backyard. Some small millipedes are also visible in the 2nd picture.

10 October 2007

Aliens in Montreal


These snails, an Oxychilus species, were quite common in the backyard of my sister's house in Montreal. They did not smell like garlic (yes, I did pick one up and smelled it), so I am ruling out O. alliarius. The larger one was 10 mm in diameter. I am inclined to call them O. cellarius, but they could also be O. draparnaudi.

There are no Oxychilus species native to North America. So, regardless of what species they may be their ancestors were introduced from Europe most likely within the last 200 years.

I wanted to keep 2 of them for a future dissection, but I hadn't brought any alcohol with me. So I killed them in a little bit of beer and then preserved them, until I came home, in a few milliliters of Turkish rakı, which, with an alcohol content of 45%, surpassed Absolut vodka by 5%. They now have a nice anise smell.

09 October 2007

I & the reclining Buddha

Self portrait in the reflecting window of a Montreal antique shop.

06 October 2007

Raccoons of Mont Royal

Mont Royal, the large, relatively undeveloped hill in Montreal that gives the city its name, is apparently home to a large population of raccoons. Last nite at a lookout point we encountered a group of them that were being fed peanuts by the visitors.


People were rather careless with the raccoons to the point of attempting to hand feed them, while the raccoons were unnaturally tame. It was obvious that this practice has been going on for some time.


Although this was a good opportunity to take plenty of Procyon lotor photographs, I wish the city of Montreal took measures to prevent the feeding of raccoons in their parks.

I oppose to the direct feeding of wild animals. Wild animals need to stay wild; being so tame around humans usually and eventually spells trouble for them. Besides, in the case of raccoons, it is dangerous for humans to get that close them, for raccoons could be infected with rabies and could pass it to humans easily under such circumstances. If one Montrealer ever catches rabies from one of those tame raccoons, who will be the real victims? The person will suffer thru some rabies shots and hopefully survive, but the entire raccoon population will probably get exterminated to prevent further incidents of human carelessness.

05 October 2007

Signs of Montreal

No exhaust

no exhaust

No burglars

no burglars

No entry after midnite


04 October 2007

Off to Montreal

I am leaving tomorrow morning for Montreal, Canada. Posting will be interrupted and may not resume until after I return Monday nite or Tuesday.

As you will see on my e-ticket, I am attempting to pass myself off as a Knight of the British Empire. Maybe they will give me an extra bag of peanuts.


Be good while I'm gone.

Subtleties of theological philosophy?

Graffiti on a wall in Istanbul: Thank Allah I am an atheist.

Snapshot from Snapshots from Nemo Ramjet, the only blog from Turkey I read regularly.

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.

02 October 2007

Boltzmann questions

Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906) was one of the greatest physicists of the 19th century. He was one of the founders of statistical mechanics, the branch of physics that tries to connect the probabilistic properties and behaviors of atoms and molecules with the seemingly deterministic macroscopic properties of the objects that they constitute. Some fundamental, yet mathematically complex, equations of statistical mechanics are now known as Boltzmann equations.

From what I learned about Boltzmann's life during the past few days, I get the impression that he may have suffered from bipolar disorder. During a period of depression in 1906, he committed suicide.

Besides physics, Boltzmann was also interested in philosophy and gave a series of philosophy lectures in 1903 at the University of Vienna where he was working at that time. The journal Synthese devoted its April 1999 issue to Boltzmann. Included among the articles published in that issue was one consisting of non-mathematical excerpts from Boltzmann's preparatory notes for his philosophy lectures. The notes contain many questions (without answers) that Boltzmann was apparently asking himself, perhaps to stimulate his thinking. In one of the lecture notes,this is what he says about asking questions: What matters most is to ask the right question. It is evident that one and the same question can be asked in many different ways.

I may write more about Boltzmann in the future. For now, here are some questions from Boltzmann's lecture notes:

How does one express oneself in the most efficient way without wasting words? How is it done?

What does it mean to define? To define numbers?

Are numbers concrete or abstract?

Are Roman and Arabic numerals more or less arbitrary products of the human spirit?

Is philosophy crime, illness, or insanity?

Could all qualities be separated from a thing?

Does the external world disappear during sleep and death?

What does the equality of two quantities mean?

What does it mean that atoms exist?

What does possible mean?

Are causes transformations of energy?

Would another straw have broken the camel's back or a finger in the dike have saved Holland?

Is it only a slight thing to distinguish between slight things?

01 October 2007

A bdelloid from Colorado

Bill Birky from the University of Arizona sent these pictures of a bdelloid rotifer yesterday. He was hoping that I would be able to identify the species.


I had to disappoint him, unfortunately. One reason why I stopped working with bdelloids was that the darn creatures were so hard to identify. There really is no way to preserve them; one has to work with live and active animals (hence, no morphological type specimens). Moreover, to confirm the identifications of most individuals it is necessary to observe them while they are feeding with the ciliated lobes (the corona) around their mouths open (the bdelloid in the picture had its corona open). But if the specimens you wanted to identify didn't feel like feeding, you could wait at the microscope for hours while fuming at an animal smaller than a millimeter for wasting your time.

The food particles a bdelloid ingests pass thru its jaws, called the trophi and which happen to be the only hard parts in their bodies. The picture below shows the trophi of this unidentified species of bdelloid.


Bill Birky found these animals at about 7,100 feet (2165 m) in northern Colorado. He indicated that they have a stiff body wall, a pair eye spots and 4 toes. The latter is important to know to be able to place them in a genus. He also thinks they may be viviparous. My best guess is that they may be an Embata sp.

Both pictures are from Bill Birky. The colors are not the actual colors. Most bdelloids have colorless, translucent bodies.