Field of Science

Circus of the Spineless #28

Hi peoples, it's Circus of the Spineless time again, making its first ever appearance here at Catalogue of Organisms! (The act is being headlined by a spectacular clearwing butterfly from Jennifer Forman Orth.) A reminder, too, that the next edition of Linnaeus' Legacy will be appearing in a week's time - get your submissions in to Greg Laden by the 5th of January!

And what would a circus be without some music? It suddenly occurs to me that I should have written the song earlier and gotten Kevin Zelnio to record a performance of it, but I didn't, and you're all just going to have to hum it to yourselves, to the tune of The Beatles' For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.

For the benefit of spineless beasts, tonight we have a major feast

Of invertebrates.

With all the corals there could be, polyps waving in the sea,

Aren't they great?

Deep-Sea News and The Other 95% have decided that nothing says Christmas more than a squishy bag of jelly with tentacles - especially if they come in flourescent green and red colours!

Predators and prey compete, with fungal lassos formed from hyphal threads!

Leaving signs that this sort of thing has happened for years!

Not Exactly Rocket Science has two studies for us on past and present interactions between inverts and their enemies. In the first, water fleas and their parasitic bacteria that have lain dormant in mud for up to 39 years have been revived to test how interactions between the two have changed over time, the bacteria evolving increased ability to infect while the the water fleas increase their ability to resist infection.

In the second, fossil remains have been found in Cretaceous amber of fungal hyphae forming "lassos" to catch nematodes for nutrition. Most interestingly, the fungus in question seems to belong to a different line than the Orbiliaceae, the modern practitioners of the art!

Insects supply a drongo's feast, though the beetles are a sight to see,

the spiders too.

Follow the links for pretty pictures from Bird Ecology Study Group and Ben Cruachan.

The snails gayly fornicate, able to know their suited mate,

We've not a clue.

Pascal, the author of Research at a snail's pace reports that two of his snails have mated, leaving him hopeful for a litter of little snail-lets. One of the happy pair kicked it a few days after mating, which is something of a benefit to Pascal, because he wasn't able to properly ID them to species without cutting them open and looking inside.

Toronto has a warning out, there's beetles on the move that spread disease

And that is something we don't want at all!

The assassin bug will knock you down, displaying its amazing gown

Of ant remains.

Go to The Other 95% to learn how one species of assassin bugs coats itself in the drained husks of the ants it feeds on in order to elude its own predators!

And if you want a nudibranch, and have a fair bit in the bank,

then stake your claim!

Finally, Jim Lemire has been made a little unhappy by an institute reduced to auctioning off the naming rights to a pile of new species in order to pay the bills.

Farewell Circus of the Spineless, we hope that you enjoyed the fun this month!

Next round, see Andrea's Buzzing About!

Additional photo credits: Nematode trapped by a fungus from Neatorama. Snail porn from Wikipedia. Latest assasin bug fashions from Jackson & Pollard (2007).

Update: Two submissions from Susannah at Wanderin' Weeta failed to get through to me in time. If you go here and here, you can help her try to identify some mystery organisms.


  1. Hi, Christopher,

    Great CotS! Great photos, too; I love that transparent butterfly and the fungal "lassos".

    I had sent a submission, in error, to Patrick Belardo, to add to CotS #27. He already had one from me, and I somehow got the idea (I can't find an e-mail about it, though) that he was forwarding it on to you. It isn't here, unless the lines about the nudibranch refer to it. But there is no link with them. Was that a glitch, or has my memory absolutely failed me?

    (I thought I had submitted this pair of posts: Help Wanted and Follow-up on Kelp Crawlers.)

    Sorry to bother you with this; I know you're busy.

  2. Some interesting stuff there Christopher, thanks and all the best for the New Year.

  3. Sorry, Susannah, I didn't receive the posts. Thanks for the links, though - I've added them to the end of the post so that people who don't read the comments don't miss them.

    I still don't know what those things were - I can kind of see the sea squirt that was suggested, but I'm not sure.

  4. Love the song format (of course)! Have a great New Year Christopher.

  5. - get your submissions in to Greg Laden by the 5th of February!

    That would be the 5th of February as in the one that happens in January!!!

    (Would saying the wrong date count as a canard????)

  6. Whoops. The typo date has now been corrected. Cheers.

  7. A splendid time was guaranteed for all
    And tonight Mr. Taylor is topping the bill!

  8. Here's my post about it:

    "She was a splendid con"


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