Circus of the Spineless #18


The last time I hosted the Circus of the Spineless, I just did a series of photos—invertebrates are wonderfully photogenic. Here we go again, with another collection of gorgeous images of crunchy, squishy, slimy, tentacled, multi-legged, no-legged creatures.



SEF sent me this nice image of an Adalia imago, but no link—and also says there is a whole life history in photos. I’ll update this if they’re put online!


Here’s a photoessay on the Black Swallowtail butterfly.


Dragonflies in March? This photo is from last summer.


This is a nest of Jewel bugs, with a closeup here.


How do bees sense that wiggle dance? The proprioceptive organs in a bee’s antenna are very sensitive.


An invasive species, the lime swallowtail, is spreading through the New World!


Another invasion: Asian wasps invade France.


There really is a transparent shrimp in that picture. There are also photos of more visible crustaceans.


Japanese beetles, in addition to their nuisance value in our gardens, embrace the patriarchy and guard their mates.


How perverse: ants ripping off their mate’s abdomen. Maybe there’s something to say for the patriarchy.


After killing this loud visitor, we get poetry about crickets.


More butterflies: Polydamus swallowtail larvae.


It gets cold up north, and the bees catch a chill.


The largest moth in the US is the Black Witch, with a 7 inch wingspan.


Moths use gyroscopes to stabilize their flight.


A pretty stick insect.


A crab spider with poetry, and a bonus: a porcelain crab.


Babies are so cute, aren’t they? Especially if they are huntsman spiderlings.


Here’s a photoessay on fishing spiders.



Taningia danae, a squid that hunts with bioluminescence, was popular.


Deep Sea News has more photos of Taningia.


When you hold them up to your ear, you can hear screaming.


The eight-armed cuttle has been an object of fascination for at least one hundred and thirty years.


There was a little controversy in the sequencing of a clam genome.


Certain species of snakes have asymmetric jaws to winkle a snail out of its shell.


Sea slugs have spectacular sex liveswith extra diversity.



Sea cucumbers feeding—with video!


Cool as a cucumber on the Antarctic sea floor.



Sneaky parasitic worms manipulate their host’s sense of smell so that they’ll get eaten.


Polychaete worms have elaborate feeding structures.


Go to Hawaii—see the marine worms!



I had never, ever considered eating sea squirts, but here’s a YouTube video showing how to cook Halocynthia roretzi.



How sad. Our only cnidarian representatives are beached Portuguese man-o’-war.


Witness the carnage!.



Here’s the coolest phylum I didn’t know much about before, with a ciliate-flagellate transitional form.

The next edition of CotS will be at Burning Silo at the end of March.


  1. says

    Must apologiise for the partial duplication between my and your post – Figured if ye needed submissions it was a fun subject to talk about, so might as well. Then, of course, you got around to using it, and, well. Oh, well! =)

  2. says

    Oh yeah. Good stuff.

    I just got me a nice Micro-Nikkor lens for my D80, and I plan to hunt down plenty of wigglies this summer.

    I can’t wait.

  3. Mothra says

    Sorry to rain on your wonderful picture parade, but the black witch (Ascalapha odorats) would not make the top 5 in terms of wingspan among North American moths larger are: Thysania agrippa, Hyalophora cecropia, Ceratocampa splendens, Cocytius antaeus and Pseudosphinx tetrio. This assumes a proper pinned specimen with the forewing inner margin perpendicular to the body axis– standard wingspan measurement. A better measurement if fw length from base to apex- black withs (Ascalapha odorata) would still come in sixth. In terms of wing area, it would be a tie for third, other contenders for that third spot would be: Thysania zenobia, Antheraea polyphemus, and Rothschildia cincta.

    Great web site!!! Off topic comment: ABC ran a spite atheists article as part of their sunday evening ‘newscast.’

  4. G. Tingey says

    Talking of spineless, as in wriglly, and hard to pin down…

    Have you seen this, yet – it is addressed to you?

    “Dear Prof. PZ Myers,

    I should very much appreciate it if you would be so kind as to send me your definition of the word “science”. I find myself in need of a definition that one could consider reasonably conclusive, and as you are one of science’s more outspoken defenders and advocates, I thought that you might be willing to provide me with one despite our obvious differences. While I am perfectly capable of perusing dictionaries and Wikipedia, and have in fact done so, I should not like my own biases to influence my selection from among the wide variety of definitions on offer.

    Please be assured that this has nothing to do with any defense of ID, creationism or any of the presumably anti-scientific bete noirs that offend your professional sensibilities as a biologist.

    Thank you,
    Vox Day.

  5. says

    Darn! well, now that I know how this works, I’ll send in some of my nudibranch photos next time!

    This is pretty cool! I’ll be reading a lot of these today…

  6. SEF says

    The spirobranchus is quite lovely. But not more so than the man-o’-war (or should the plurality of them be men-o’-war?), even if they aren’t proper jellyfish (who knew jellyfish could be so classist, despite not even being proper fish!). :-D

  7. Mooser says

    Bertie’s Aunt Agatha refered to him as a “spineless invertebrate!”

    Well, I mean to say, dash it all, what?

  8. The Physicist says

    I am pretty much an insect ignoramus, except for the usual stuff I grew up on the farm with. My two favorite spiders were what we called the Wolf Spider, and the Fly spider, which were fun to play with. The wolf spider was the fastest spider I have seen and would project its top speed some where around 8ft/sec.

    My favorite flying insect was what we called the robber fly. they would hover around our garden plants and wait for a house fly to light on a plant and would dive bomb it sticking its long snout in the fly and grabbing it with its long legs and fly off and I ussumed ate it. I also learned that the bumble bees (hundreds of them) feeding on the flower nectar of our blackeyed pea plants were completely docile as long as you didn’t accidently grab one while picking the peas.

    Cool post.

  9. The Physicist says

    PZ, What do you make of the current bee problem known as Colony Collapse Dissorder (CCD).

    I am wondering myself it is not due to some new elctromagnetic propgation. The paper that I will reference below states in a study that 250hz (VLF) will confuse a honey bee’s spatial orientation by a 10% mean. I think this could possibly explain why they never find the dead bees.

  10. Steve_C says

    There was a piece on NPR about the bee colony collapses out west.

    try a search at NPR.

  11. The Physicist says

    OK, Steve, but no one for sure has track down the exact cause. But I thought maybe PZ could through his friend in acedemia test this theory, it makes more sense to me than “we don’t know for sure what’s causing it”.

  12. Rey Fox says

    That seashell comic annoys me. Why did the cartoonist have to put in that damn explanatory caption?

  13. Mothra says

    About the bee problem. First, it is not merely honeybees but native pollinators as well. Second, with the introduction of both the tracheal mite and Varoa mite, bees are under greater physiological ‘stress’ than previously. Third, the difficulty in determining the cause of colony collapses is that this phenomenon, whatever it is, is causing bees to die away from the hive– nothing to ‘autopsy.’ Also, a similar episode of colony collapse occurred in the late ’50’s early ’60’s. That episode was never solved and American Apiculture recovered. The cause of our current problem is as yet unknown, but media hype can only be counter productive.

    Incidentally, there are many cases where insect diseases cause changes in behavior of their hosts. One of the most readily observable cases occurs in grasshoppers infected with Entomopthera calopteni and its congeners. Infected hoppers crawl to the very tops of grass stems to die. This behavior possibly aids in fungal spore dispersal.

  14. says

    The eight-armed cuttle has been an object of fascination for a bit longer than that. Conrad Gesner’s 16th Century Historiae Animalium had this cuttie. You can see his entire work (along with some other important early science) in a truly amazing format, where it seems almost like you have the book in front of you, at the National Library of Medicine site.