Night diving in Mo’orea

Okay, so I completely dropped the ball on keeping up with posts about student research from Mo’orea. It turns out teaching a field class and writing a dissertation fills up a schedule rather quickly. Hopefully I can get back to posting somewhat intelligent and/or thoughtful stuff after I get back to the mainland this weekend (hard to believe it’s already been 5 weeks!). Until then, here are a few photos I took on a night dive last week…enjoy!

An anemone hermit crab at night.
From Wikipedia:Dardanus pedunculatus usually lives on coral reefs and in the intertidal zone, at depths of 1–27 metres (3–89 ft). It usually carries sea anemones on its shell, which it uses to protect itself from its main predator, cephalopods of the genus Octopus. The anemones are collected at night, and comprises the crab stroking and tapping the anemone until it loosens its grip on the substrate, at which point it is moved onto the gastropod shell that the hermit crab inhabits.

A parrotfish in its mucus “sleeping bag.”
Many species of parrotfish surround themselves with a mucus bubble at night. It is thought to protect them from predators by keeping their scent out of the water and possibly provide an early warning system if the mucus is broken by an approaching predator. I wasn’t able to identify this particular species, suggestions are welcome.

The chocolate tang Acanthurus pyroferus.
Tang and surgeonfish (family Acanthuridae) have a sharp scalpel-like blade on their caudal peduncle (the part right in front of the tail) that they can whip around to slice a predator.

The banded cleaner shrimp Stenopus hispidus.
Again, from Wikipedia: “Stenopus hispidus lives below the intertidal zone, at depth of up to 210 metres (690 ft),on coral reefs. It is a cleaner shrimp, and advertises to passing fish by slowly waving its long, white antennae. S. hispidus uses its three pairs of claws to remove parasites, fungi and damaged tissue from the fish.”

The urchin Diadema savignyi.
No much to say about this guy, just don’t step on one. The spines are every bit as sharp as they look.

A moray eel. I think the undulated moray Gymnothorax undulatus?

The ass end of one of the most beautiful fishes I’ve ever seen. Some kind of gurnard?

The spotfin lionfish Pterois antennata.
Again, viewed from the posterior. This species has other common names, but who cares?


The Ethics of Selling Science: From Farting Dinosaurs to Conscious Planets

When science mixes with the media, there is a tendency for things to get…sensationalized. One recent example of this is the recent dinosaur flatulence fiasco. An interesting, short, and straightforward paper was recently published in Current Biology, which attempted to estimate the amount of methane produced by giant dinosaurs. Scientists have known for a while that farm animals, especially cows, produce enough methane to potentially effect the climate, so what about dinosaurs?


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And the Winner of the MBL Cover Contest is…

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to take part in the Embryology Summer Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts (I blogged about this experience for The Node, and on my now-definct blog BioBlueprints).

Every year, some of the coolest images taken during the course compete to be on the cover of an issue of the scientific journal Development. And I’m excited to say that an image I helped take (with Lynn Kee from the University of Michigan and Meghan Morrissey from Duke University) has won the first contest! It will be on the cover of Development later this month (I’m sure you can pick it up at your local newsstand, right between the most recent issues of Annals of Botany and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society).

You can still see all of the photos here, and they are all really incredible.  But I do think this image is something special (hint: you have to see it at the larger size to really appreciate it):

This is ventral surface of a skate (genus Raja) treated with alcian blue (which stains cartilage) and alizarin red (which stains bone). The squiggly lines surrounding the face are ampullary canals, which act as an electro-sensory system.