Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fascinating Sea Stuff!



I hide it pretty well, but I am a big old animal lover and sometime-science freak. I find the ocean especially fascinating because there is so much to be explored, and because of the extremes of temperature and pressure at which we find sea life. (I also find there to be a kind of race-against-time aspect in oceanic zoology in that we are in the midst of a great anthropogenic extinction--but the realization that creatures can and have adapted to conditions we would consider bizarre is somewhat heartening.)

So bear with my geeking out over a handful of stories I came across this week--like, what on earth is up with the octopus genome? Some scientists have declared that the octopus is like an alien, having great genetic complexity (something like 10K more genes than your humble homo sapiens has), a fairly clever brain and remarkable camouflage skills. I remember Paul the octopus, who predicted soccer games, which is not even something you'd think an octopus would be especially informed about. Frankly, it makes me feel a little guilty about how much I like eating the buggers. (I'm also a fan of calamari fritti, although I don't think a plate of architeuthis would go down well, even with breading and marinara!)

Sort of speaking of my Italian accented eating habits--a flying (swimming?) spaghetti monster has been spotted. A bundle of rhyzophysid siphoniphores (say that five times real fast, I dare you!) might look like an organized pot of vermicelli, but I don't think I'm eating them--once again, not even with marinara and bread crumbs. These guys were found at 4K feet under the ocean. They don't seem like a likely pasta-substitute for paleo peeps anyway. I'm reasonably sure cavemen never, uh, fathomed they existed.

Here's another sea-science tidbit--it seems like some marine animals might be adapting to ocean acidification by taking more time to nurture their young. This is kind of fascinating, because we actually have a changing environment and it gives us ample opportunity to view how species do adapt, or don't and might die. But there is an interesting turn here--as mammals ourselves, we take nurturing of young for granted, but it is the basis for transmission of a kind of culture. Imagine how it might work out for clever animals like octopi to transmit acquired knowledge from generation to generation. One thing we have seen over time is that some animals respond evolutionarily by breeding larger, with an understood increase in brain weight and complexity.

I'm not exactly saying "Hail our new giant octopus overlords!", but I'm not exactly not saying it. If this goes as I'm modeling, I just want to say I am all the sorry emotionally possible about enjoying my niece-in-law's tuna and octopus salad so much that I ate three plates of it. If I do get to Italy this year, I probably will still eat all the damn fish (there may be a hiccup in my intended travel plans--which I trust means at least I don't have an undue hiatus in my bloggery), but I guess I'll do it mindfully? Our life aquatic could also be sentient-adjacent. Which is wild and troubling to contemplate.

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