Saturday, September 25, 2010

Impressionistic Invertebrates

I did; I stopped by the Invertebrate House this past week, even though the light in the exhibits is not very good for photography and even though I’m always tempted to correct people—even more so than in the rest of the zoo—when they relay inaccurate invertebrate information to their offspring. But it turned out to be a good day; the light was just right for a few clear shots and a number of semi-impressionistic images—and the people were not unduly uninformed.

I saw an interesting orgy of ophiuroids—not a real orgy, I don’t think, but it was definitely a big seething mass of brittle stars writhing their arms over one another. Brittle stars are related to (but different from!) starfish; their arms are connected to a central disc but are much longer and more flexible than those of starfish, hence their name: “ophios” means “snake” in ancient Greek, and their limbs do have that sinuous quality. I don’t know what they were so excited about the other day, but there was plenty of twisting around going on.

By the echinoderms (urchins, brittle stars, starfish, etc.) I made sure to take a picture of one of my favorite characteristics of that phylum, their tube feet. These are used in starfish and other echinoderms in order to move around (among other things); they’re connected to the starfish’s water vascular system and expand when water is forced into them. (They can also provide a suction force, as when a starfish is trying to pry open a scallop so that it can evert its stomach and ingest the hapless bivalve.)

I also tried to take pictures of a number of crustaceans, but I’m only happy with my images of the giant freshwater prawn, the slipper lobster, and the enormous hermit crab.

And then there was the octopus, Octavius, who was unusually active today (probably because it was nearly his feeding time) and kept “pacing” the tank, crawling along the wall with all suckers moving or stretching out over the rocks, his beautiful, immensely flexible and muscular flesh swooping over and draping onto the surface like a cape settling.

The pictures, of course, can’t do him justice, but I hope they can suggest something of the magical beauty of his movements.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


pattinase (abbott) said...

Gorgeous as always. Nature made man one of the most boring of species colorwise at least.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Very true, Patti. The only good thing about us humans is that we--some of us, at least--can appreciate the beauty and general superiority of other species.

Anca said...

Lovely shots. Octavius in particular should win "Dancing with the Stars," in this case the ophiuroids (and tell spell-check to stop trying to correct me!).

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