Friday, March 30, 2007

a giant cephalopod in iceland, 1639

A paper by Prof. Japetus Steenstrup from 1849 quotes reports from the Icelandic naturalist Eg. Olafsen on a giant cephalopod that drifted onto the shore of Iceland in 1639. It was reported that on Thingoresand in Hunevandsyssel, "a peculiar creature or sea monster was stranded with length and thickness like those of a man; it had 7 tails... These tails were densely covered with a kind of button, and the buttons looked as if there was an eye ball in each button, and round the eye ball was an eyelid, these eyelids looked as if they were guilded. On this sea monster there was in addition a single tail which had grown about above those 7 tails; it was extremely long, 4-5 fms [7.50-9.40 m]."

Eg. Olafsen also had a drawing of the creature. Sadly, according to Steenstrup, "This drawing, however, no longer exists, since together with the majority of Eg. Olafsen's books it feel a prey to the waves when he lost his life on his way home from the place where he had celebrated his marriage, an irreparable loss to Iceland..."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

my sushi dream.

more underwater ecosystem interactions in dorchester.

MaryCat alerted me to the fact that the sink octopus appears again in a recent post of hers interacting with a halibut (see the sink octopus in the corner?). Luckily for the sink octopus (since halibut are known to enjoy a tasty cephalopod now and again) it doesn't look like this particular halibut will be eating anything anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

underwater ecosystem discovered in dorchester, ma

MaryCat discovered this amazing example of oceanic ecology in her new apartment. We are still unsure what the main food stuffs of these two organisms are. However, when the octopus was given a light squeeze, a liquid exuded from its filament-like tentacles. After extensive lab testing, we realized this liquid was dish soap. The sponge still isn't divulging its habits, even after we threatened to scrub the toilet with it.

pfd (personal flotation device).

I know you stay up late at night wondering how nautiluses and cuttlefish stay at the depth they want to be at in the ocean. How do they keep from sinking to the bottom, being crushed by the pressure (cue Queen song here), or floating up to the top and being eaten by ever so many predators? It turns out that nautiluses and cuttlefish have the ability to adjust their neutral buoyancy (i.e. they don't sink, and they don't have to swim to stay at a certain depth). They achieve this by having a mixture of gas and sea water inside of them that they can adjust. This is all due to a very cool organ known as the siphuncle that uses active transport and the balance of water and gas in the animal to regulate its buoyancy. This means they use hardly any energy maintaining the position they want to be at in the ocean. Nautiluses can go to lower depths in the day to avoid predators (down to 600 meters!) and then come back up to more shallow levels at night to feed. (Info taken from "An Introduction to the Invertebrates, 2nd Edition by Janet Moore, 2006, Cambridge University Press.)

So, everyone: I'm trading in my water wings for a siphuncle next time I go swimming.

Monday, March 26, 2007

giant squid hickey

We know giant squid are very, very, large. And very, very awesome. Supposedly these squid become embroiled with whales in the deep murky depths of the ocean (the whales are supposedly trying to eat them). Well, I am here to posit a new theory: the squid and the whale are not fighting. Oh no. Verily, I believe they are having an illicit love affair. And if it is wrong to have a squid and a whale love each other then I don't know what this world has come to. Oh, to be in that whale's place!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

sunday brunch.

If you doubted the existence of the baconopod, doubt no more. Doesn't this stained slide of tentacle taken from the interweb look like...bacon? Whoever made this slide also knows about the baconopod's existence. Well, whoever you are, don't think you can scoop me with an article in a top tier journal about the baconopod. I already submitted my manuscript to Science, so suck it.

i'm stuffed.

This post is a small aside. Lately I have been wanting to learn more about taxidermy. Apparently it is not yet possible to stuff a cephalopod (even if you stuff it with love!), but I still wanted to learn more about it. And maybe I could steal gunther von hagen's (of bodyworlds fame) secret preservation techiniques and make "squid world."

So, because I am thinking about dabbling in taxidermy (though it is probably not a hobby people dabble in, more like all of the sudden I am in my moldy basement surrounded by the stuffed heads of dead things twenty years from now and I have a strange gleam in my eye as I hold a very sharp scalpel above the body of some sort of rare antelope and all the neighbors tell their children to STAY AWAY from my house because remember when little Stevie went missing?) I went to the library to see what I could find. All of the books on taxidermy I came across were very old, and I was worried I may be missing the great technological leaps and bounds that have may have affected the taxidermy industry (surely there must have been some sort of taxidermal enlightenement in the 1950's) in the intervening years between 1896 and now. Hence, I was really excited to find the book "Lessons in Taxidermy" by Bee Lavender, published in 2006 and I put it on hold immediately. I went to pick it up yesterday.

Well, just a warning, it's not about taxidermy. I'm really disappointed about that. It turns out to be an autobiography, which I will try to read, if only because one review of it called it "a poignant book about anguish." But, jeez. It's still not "a poignant book about stuffing dead things."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

the dear devoured one

I happened upon this book by Henry Lee, published in 1875:

Mr. Lee was the Naturalist at the Brighton Aquarium in England. Here is an excerpt from Chapter II, titled "Octopods I Have Known":

"The first octopus received at the Brighton Aquarium was caught in a lobster-pot at Eastbourne in October 1872, and great was the joy that reigned in "London-by-the-sea."...The new octopus became "the rage." Poor fellow! his career was short, and his end sudden and shocking...

It became necessary to clean out a tank in which were some "Larger spotted dog-fishes," Scyllium stellare. No hostility between them and the octopus being anticipated by their attendant, they were temporarily placed with it, and, for a while, they seemed to dwell together as peaceably as the "happy family" of animals...the octopus usually remaining within the "Cottage-by-the-sea" which he had built for himself in the form of a grotto of living oysters, and the dog-fish apparently taking no notice of him.

But one fatal day--the 7th of January, 1873--the "devil-fish" was missing, and it was seen that one of the "companions of his solitude" was inordinately distended. A thrill of horror ran through the corridors. There was suspicion of crime and dire disaster. The corpulent nurse-hound was taken into custody, lynched and disembowelled, and his guilt made manifest. For there, within his capacious stomach, unmutilated and entire, lay the poor octopus who had delighted thousands during the Chrismtas holidays. It had been swalled whole and very recently, but life was extinct.

"The dear devoured one," as a local journal called it, was at once immersed in methylated spirits. The dog-fish was stuffed. Both are still preserved at the aquarim."

R.I.P., little guy. R.I.P.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

smoking kraken.

A close up of the caption (click on it if you need it bigger):

This picture is from the 1957 book, Kingdom of the Octopus: The Life-History of the Cephalopoda," by Frank W. Lane (Jarrolds, London). Apparently the word "kraken" refers to giant sea monsters in Scandanavian. I didn't know that. But now I plan on using the word kraken all the kraken time. I just love everything about this picture--from the way the men are grappling with the fake squid (and if you look closely to the left, there is a pair of disembodied arms operationg a joystick of some kind), to the fact the Mr. Lane HAS to point out that the "beak is wrong" on the squid. I bet if he said that to those set guys' faces he would have gotten his ass krackened.

Monday, March 19, 2007

octopus mimicus.

The humanity! The following is an example of what can happen to the unwary aquarium gift shop visitor. Please, make sure that neither you nor your loved ones fall prey to the Octopus mimicus. This octopus is not to be trifled with and has been wreaking havoc with the tourist industry for years. When the unsuspecting prey item (i.e. your aunt mabel) picks up the mimicus (thinking it is merely a soft, cuddly and vastly overpriced gift shop toy), the mimicus viciously attacks the head and neck of the victim. To date, there have been no survivors of these attacks. And there is nothing more disturbing than seeing someone you love, laying in a pool of blood in the aquarium gift shop, missing a giant piece of their head. It's enough to make you put down those magnets you were going to give as Christmas gifts.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


A very rare sighting was made in the kitchen this morning:

(WARNING: The following footage may be very disturbing for vegetarians and vegans. I apologize in advance for the strange ways that mother nature works.)

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES: The baconopod lay on the plate for a while, perhaps attempting to blend into its surroundings. It proceeded to open a can of tuna using its beak and made tuna salad. That appears to be its main staple. Then it oozed across the counter and went to sleep in the toaster oven. Upon further investigation, what is really amazing is that the baconopod appears to have nine bacon appendages. This may be a mutant baconopod, or a special adaptation for kitchen living. Only further study will tell us the answer.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Last November I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with my friend, Richey. The volunteers informed us (rather blithely, I thought) that the cuttlefish had been REMOVED because they were not ENDEMIC to the Western United States. I shoved my fist in my mouth to stifle the screams and then rended my garments a little bit. After that the volunteer told us where the giant red octopus (Octopus rubescens) was located.

He (or she) appeared to be sleeping in the corner of his tank, but then we were very lucky because he woke up and started moving around his tank.

There was this Indian family that came up to the tank and the dad said to the kids: "Look kids, a real octopus!" and one of the kids ran up to the tank and kept saying over and over: "It's a humongtopus! It's a humongtopus!"

Here is a movie of the event. Not the greatest, might make you sea sick, but it has some hot tentacle action. (The beginning is AWFUL, but then it gets slightly better.)

As an aside, after going to Monterey, I read "Cannery Row" by Steinbeck and it was really good. I now have a crush on cephalopods and the Doc.


Hello--since cephalopods make up the title of this blog, I am guessing I should start immediately with pictures of them. Here are some pictures of a cuttlefish from my birthday last year when I dragged my boyfriend to the aquarium with me. I have a crush on the cuttlefish there. If you don't know this already, cuttlefish can rapidly (like in an instantaneous millisecond) change color all over their bodies. They kind of look like tiny flashing billboards. I'm sure ad companies are dying to figure out how to get one to flash a "drink Coke" sign on its body.

Even though these pictures make it look like the cuttlefish has been arrested for a crime (of which I am sure he is innocent!) and these are his mugshots, you can still feel the attractive allure of the cuttlefish. (Can't you?) And judging from the piles of dried cuttlefish in certain Asian markets, they are also very tasty. Not quite as cute when dried out, though.