Ok, Now It’s Personal

The intimidatingly brilliant Scicurious has challenged (or been challenged? It’s all so hazy) the Cuttlefish readership, in the Donors Choose competition.

Pity her, but don’t act on that pity. Crush her, or let her readers help her. I know we can win–I know my readers. Remember (as per this post), number of donors is crucial, so even small donations are very welcome (and yes, huge donations will also be tolerated).

The stakes couldn’t be higher: bragging rights, and drinks. And Sci has fired the first shot. “May the best vertebrate win” indeed. Them’s fightin’ words.

A vain and a thoughtless Scicurious
Wrote verse, in attempting to worrious
Her rhyme and her meter
Are working to beat her
And teachers of English are furious

More Trouble For Giant Cuttlefish

As if things were not bad enough
Point Lowly now has seals
Who may decide that cuttlefish
Make very tasty meals.
For now, they dine on snappers, but
They still are a concern
With fur seals by the dozen…
Will the cuttlefish return?

Via email from John Morales, minutes ago, more bad news for the Giant Cuttlefish at Point Lowly:

Fur seals have been spotted in upper Spencer Gulf at the breeding ground of the giant cuttlefish.

Whyalla fisherman Alan Hall says dozens of seals have been feeding on snapper at Point Lowly.

So they are eating snapper now, but giant cuttlefish are basically a protein popsicle. Just the cuttlebone, no nasty needle-shaped bones, no nasty scales. Seals aren’t dumb; I am worried.

While I’m talking about Point Lowly, let me remind any of you who have not signed the petition to do so ASAP. In my opinion, international signers are every bit as important; this is a huge tourist destination as well as a local treasure.

Save The Cuttlefish!

Cuttlefish Country” is my kind of country;
I’d love to go visit, some day.
So I’m asking your help; go and sign their petition,
There’s really no time for delay.
There’s a plan to pump brine, left from desalination
To Point Lowly, where the cuttlefish mate;
This year, just one tenth of the cuttlefish showed—
Could it be we’re already too late?

Via @danimations on Twitter, a cause we can all support, and a site worth visiting.

Protect the Cuttlefish!

The Point Lowly Peninsula is the only known place in the world where hundreds of thousands of Giant Australian Cuttlefish gather to breed. We need your help to urge the State Government of South Australia to protect this wildlife phenomenon from proposed industrial impacts.

Other fish species also spawn in the area including Snapper, Western King Prawns, Squid, Eagle Rays and Port Jackson Sharks. The Upper Spencer Gulf ecosystem also supports two local dolphin pods and visiting whales.

A desalination plant is currently proposed for the Point Lowly Peninsula. If approved, its operation will release salty brine into this sensitive ecosystem. Scientific studies have shown that increased salinity kills cuttlefish and squid eggs.

The Giant Australian Cuttlefish and Upper Spencer Gulf fish nurseries need your help. Sign and share our petition and urge our State Premier to insist on relocating the proposed desalination plant to a less vulnerable area.

The project is currently funded completely out of the filmmakers’ (Dan and Emma Monceaux) pockets; I did not even see a “donate” button on the site, although they do sell the bumper stickers. All they are asking for is your signature on a petition, and in exchange, you get wonderful cuttlefish videos, and the chance to nudge the South Australian government to do the right thing.

Please visit the site, and take a look around. They have supported their arguments well, and their requests of the government are reasonable. Currently they are looking for 5,000 signatures, and are just over 1,000 already. Go. Read. Sign.

The Octopus Gods


Image: Michael McRae

Oh, the cephalopods have their Octopus Gods,
With tentacles stronger than steel,
Who have taken down ships with their powerful grips
And made many a sailor a meal.

They win wrestling matches with submarine hatches
Like popping a tin of sardines
Then it’s horrible cries, and tears in the eyes
Of the witnessing Merchant Marines.

Survivers are few, but they swear it is true—
“The monster, it started to throttle us!”
You can vividly note, from the scar on his throat
He survived the attack on the Nautilus.

These powerful deities loves spontaneity,
Thus, are well-loved by their followers
Who all serve as one, having octopus fun
Whether tiny, or submarine-swallowers

When I tell you (no lie) that the octopus eye
Is superior even to Man’s
It’s clear that this creature’s the centerpiece feature
In a sinister deity’s plans

They’ll take down a shark, like a walk in the park—
You’ve seen it on YouTube, I know
And to get to their goal they can squeeze through a hole,
Up the drain, in your tub, to your toe!

So guzzle your Folger’s—these octopus soldiers
Are coming for you while you sleep!
These eight-legged beauties will all do their duties;
Invisible devils, they creep.

So the next time you think, “could one hide in my sink?
Or my bathtub, or even my toilet?”
As a Cuttlefish, I would be seen as a spy
If I told you (besides, that would spoil it).

If you find an appeal in an octopus meal—
Say, for sushi you’ve got a real itch—
The cephalopods have their Octopus Gods
And I’m telling you, payback’s a bitch. [Read more...]

Getting The Ball Rolling

Just as a followup to yesterday’s exceedingly cool octopus video, another exceedingly cool octopus video.

‘Neath the waves, at the turn of the tide,
Where the sand gives you nowhere to hide
Savvy octopi* know
There’s just one way to go–
Find a coconut shell; crawl inside!

*don’t even start.

What The…?

Inkily, Slinkily,

Tool-using octopus

Armors its body with

Coconut shells;

Film has been shot of this

Cephalopoddity–

Gives me the mother of

All “What the Hell?”‘s

Excellent coverage by the BBC here.

Dr Mark Norman, head of science at Museum Victoria, Melbourne, and one of the authors of the paper, said: “It is amazing watching them excavate one of these shells. They probe their arms down to loosen the mud, then they rotate them out.”

After turning the shells so the open side faces upwards, the octopuses blow jets of mud out of the bowl before extending their arms around the shell – or if they have two halves, stacking them first, one inside the other – before stiffening their legs and tip-toeing away.

Dr Norman said: “I think it is amazing that those arms of pure muscle get turned into rigid rods so that they can run along a bit like a high-speed spider.

“It comes down to amazing dexterity and co-ordination of eight arms and several hundred suckers.”

Where In The World Is The Digital Cuttlefish?


I am wand’ring the earth, to its ends
But I feel that I must make amends
While I’ve traveled, I fear
I’ve neglected you here–
So a picture, or two, of some friends!

(I took these just a couple of days ago…)

Thank you all for your wishes and greetings; I have a bit of forced downtime today on a bus ride, so I may have time to compose something… or maybe to sleep, perchance to dream…

Friday Limericks: Under The Sea

Maybe it is just those prepared cuttlefish snacks, but I am in the mood for fish.

‘Midst the seaweeds and sponges and corals
Live the cephalopods; and their quarrels
Will come, often, to blows–
A behavior which shows
A deplorable absence of morals!

A grey-haired and bearded signore
With a snorkel and mask, took a foray
To a reef, but gave flight
When his toe felt a bite–
But as everyone knows, that’s a Moray

Now a squid has a bite, but the truth is,
There’s a beak where you’d think that a tooth is
I suppose that won’t matter
If you’re on the platter–
A snack for a great Architeuthis!

I may add more later, but I have to get going–places to go, things to do! Uncharacteristic of Fridays for me…

Have fun!

Ethics, morals, religion, and swarms of breeding squid.

Ok, not much time today–tests to make, papers to grade, that sort of thing. So I am simply putting a comment from last week on Pharyngula into some context.

A recent Pew report on religion in the US was one of the lead stories on all the networks last night. On CBS, they spoke of a “secular, morally void America”, implying that morals come from religion.

I would (as would many others–I am not unique in this by any stretch) argue that morals have evolved with our culture (through selection by consequences, though not through genes), and that religion springs from morality, rather than the popular reverse. The customs, habits, rituals and mores that help a culture to survive in the long run are selected for, and the ones that do not promote long-term survival, no matter how religious, are selected against. (The easy example is the Jonestown cult, which was not conducive to long term cultural survival, but the more mainstream example is the Shaker sect, whose long-term cultural survival was doomed by a very moral prohibition against sex.) The things we see as virtues are the things that worked for our ancestors. Other cultures might have had vastly different cultural selection pressures, leading to very different moral virtues, and perhaps religions with very different sets of commandments.

Of course, Ogden Nash put it much better than I ever could–and used people instead of squid as his example…

Why does the Pygmy
Indulge in polygmy?
His tribal dogma
Frowns on monogma.
Monogma’s a stigma
For any Pygma.
If he sticks to monogmy
A Pygmy’s a hogmy. (Ogden Nash, “The Third Jungle Book”)

My own verse was a comment on the Friday Cephalopod: breeding swarm! post on Pharyngula…

For squid or starfish, perch or porgy,
There’s nothing like an ocean orgy
Where, unlike silly human rules,
Of course we want more sex in schools
Monogamy’s against the norms
For those who have their sex in swarms!
Indeed, were there some fishy prude–
Who found such conduct simply rude,
And lectured others on their morals,
Preached of Sodom in the corals–
This Jerry Falwell of the waves
Would be the one who misbehaves!
The squid who do their moral duty
Join the swarm and shake their booty!
It’s good, and not just glamorous,
When squid are polyamorous,
For in the moral code of shellfish,
Rule number one is “Don’t be selfish”.