Stories tagged mollusks

May
28
2010

This could be you: (Again, only if you were a snail.)
This could be you: (Again, only if you were a snail.)Courtesy Thomas Hahmann
I'm not going to get into the full parasite extravaganza here, because Wired Magazine already laid it out pretty well, but here's the general idea:

What if some worm eggs snuck into your body through something you ate (something gross)? What if one of them lodged itself in your liver, and, after a little while, started producing embryos of its own? What if it packed those embryos into giant, pulsating egg sacks that flopped out of your eye sockets and hung from your head? And what if those pulsating egg sacks looked so delicious to birds that they would flap down and eat them (and your eyes)?

It can all happen. I mean, you'd have to be a snail for it to happen to you, but still... Leucochloridium paradoxum is out there.

Jan
28
2010

Elysia chlorotica: You think you're so special, don't you?
Elysia chlorotica: You think you're so special, don't you?Courtesy lauredhel
Some of you may already know my feelings on mollusks. In short, I’m against them.

It’s not that I necessarily want them all exterminated, or anything. It’s just that mollusks, with their tentacles and beaks and pseudopodia and large brains, freak my Schmidt out. And I tend to live under a “you’re either with us or against us” credo, and mollusks obviously aren’t “with us.” (They aren’t with me, anyway. Frankly, most things aren’t.)

But I get by. I know that there are mollusks out there, doing… I don’t know what. Probably something utterly horrible. But we leave each other alone, and more or less leave it at that. It’s a workable arrangement.

Now and again, however, a mollusk stretches its squishy neck out and, by its very existence, makes cracks in the already fragile JGordon/Mollusca peace. It’s like the cold war, really—if one side does something strange, or develops a fantastic new piece of technology, the other side gets a little nervous. So, naturally, I’m a little cagey about this news:

There’s a marine slug (a mollusk, of course, that feeds itself through photosynthesis.

Are you kidding me? I’m all, “I think I’ve got chronic anxiety!” and this lousy slug is like, “That’s too bad. Also, I feed myself with sunlight.” I can’t even get groceries because my car battery died (there’s a very scary tree near my bus stop, so that’s out), and this little jerk is a phototroph. If I had laser eyes, or something, the situation would be a little more balanced, but last time I checked I didn’t have laser eyes.

I have to give it to the slug, though—it’s a pretty neat trick. Early in its approximately one-year-long lifecycle, the slug eats some photosynthetic algae. From that point on, the slug is photosynthetic; it feeds itself by using sunlight to convert CO2 and water into sugar, just like plants do. What’s more, the photosynthesis isn’t being performed by algae inside the slug (some organisms, like lichen contain algae, which feeds them). The slug itself has genes for photosynthesis, and the photosynthesizing genes from the algae are just required to kick-start the slug’s own abilities. And then, BAM, a photosynthetic animal.

The leaf-shaped slug, which lives in salty swamps in Eastern Canada and grows to be about an inch long, is remarkable not only for its photosynthetic abilities, but also for something unique in the process written above. Getting those kick-starting genes from the algae requires gene transfer. Passing genes from one species to another is a rare and complicated thing, but some microscopic, single-celled organisms have been known to do it. This is the first time gene transfer has been observed between two multi-cellular organisms (the slug and the algae, of course).

Aside from being, well, just sort of weird, the slug’s gene transferring abilities might turn out to be useful in the future of gene therapy, where new genes are inserted into cells to combat diseases. A practical application whatever transferring mechanism the slug and algae use is a long way off, though. And, anyway, I’ll be damned if I ever use anything that came from a mollusk.

Oct
31
2008

Zoological counterstategists are working around the clock: If they discover what would happen if they wrapped themselves around our faces... The war would be over.
Zoological counterstategists are working around the clock: If they discover what would happen if they wrapped themselves around our faces... The war would be over.Courtesy ccaviness
Breaking news from the field of science: mollusks remain strange, unnerving. Chief among their many unsettling attributes are tentacles, highly developed brains, and an inborn desire to mess up the world of men.

A German octopus, name of Otto, has been conducting small-scale trial runs of what is no doubt a plan to disrupt that county’s entire electric infrastructure.

The staff of the Sea Star Aquarium in Colburg, Germany, had been baffled by the facility’s frequent short circuits and subsequent aquarium-wide power failures, until they began taking turns sleeping on the floor to discover the source of the problem. They found that two-foot seven-inch Otto the octopus, apparently irritated by the bright light over his tank, was climbing to the rim of his aquarium to shoot jets of water at the 2000-watt spotlight above him. The electrical havoc that followed allowed Otto to get his beauty sleep (and shut off the pumps in all the other tanks, slowly suffocating the aquarium’s other animals).

Aquarium officials refuse to acknowledge the threatening situation in front of their faces, instead making excuses for the octopus. When the aquarium closes for the winter, they claim, Otto gets bored and causes mischief for attention and stimulation. In addition to the dangerous act of vandalism above, Otto has been seen juggling the hermit crabs that he lives with, damaging the glass of his tank by throwing stones at it, and obsessively rearranging the items in his tank, to “the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants.”

This is a dangerous situation. What’s to be done here?

Um...: ...tentacles.
Um...: ...tentacles.Courtesy Giant Ginko
Good thing tentacles are so popular today. Otherwise this would have given me nightmares for the rest of my life.

If you only look at the pictures and not at the rest of the post, scientists aren't sure exactly what causes this sort of tentacle bonanza, but it may be caused by an (extremely) abnormal regeneration of the octopus's limbs after an injury.

Also, if you feel like being sassy to me, don't start. Technically octopuses have arms, not tentacles. In mollusks, tentacles are generally longer than arms, and only have suckers at their tips.

But... tentacles!