Creature Corner, Vol. 6

Cuttlefish

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The last post sparked my interest in squids, but while researching squids I found a close cousin to be even more unique! Despite its name (derived from the Old Norse word for cushion?), the cuttlefish is not something I would be too keen to cuddle with. Like squids, cuttlefish have an ink sac, which secretes a characteristically brown ink to evade predators. Historically, that brown ink was used as a dye called sepia (thank goodness we have filters to tint our photos now, right?!).

For the record, cuttlefish aren’t even technically fish, they’re molluscs.

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While there are approximately 120 different species of cuttlefish, they are all characterized by the presence of a ‘cuttlebone’, which is a an internal, porous shell made of aragonite (better known as calcium carbonate). Cuttlebones are often given to caged birds such as parakeets as a source of dietary calcium.

 

They eat a fairly typical ocean diet: small molluscs, crabs, shrimp, etc., and they are preyed on by animals such as dolphins, sharks, fish, seals,  and seabirds. Humans are also known to eat cuttlefish.

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These guys inhabit shallow, tropical/temperate ocean waters ad can be found along the coasts of East & South Asia, Western Europe, the Mediterranean, and all coasts of Africa and Australia. Basically anywhere that isn’t the Americas.

Typically ranging in size from 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 in), the largest species, Sepia apama, aka the Australian giant cuttlefish, has reached over 50 cm (20 in) in length and 10.5 kg (23 lb) is mass. See below:

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Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent invertebrates; they also have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates.

Enough of the not-so-interesting, here’s what make cuttlefish really cool:

They have W-shaped pupils and have 2 spots of concentrated sensor cells on the retina, one to look more forward, and the other to look farther behind. Unlike mammals who focus their vision by reshaping the eye lens, a cuttlefish changes focus by shifting the position of the entire lens with respect to the retina. Wild. Cuttlefish have no blind spot since they can see forward and behind at the same time, and though they cannot perceive colors they do have an enhance perception of contrast.

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Instead of hemoglobin, red and iron-containing, cuttlefish have copper-containing hemocyanin pumping oxygen through their 3 seperate hearts (cuttlefish have 3 hearts!). This makes their blood a pretty cool greenish-blue colour.

The mating rituals of cuttlefish are pretty typical of aquatic creatures, HOWEVER, male cuttlefish avoid confrontation with other males by disguising themselves as females. They change their colouring, hide their extra set of arms (males have 4 pairs, females 3), and even pretend to be holding an egg sack.

A cuttlefish’s skin might be the coolest, and most intricate part. Like a chameleon, cuttlefish can rapidly change their skin colors. They also have the ability to change their skin texture, posture, and locomotion. All of this allows cuttlefish to communicate, camouflage, or warn off predators.

That was a lot of information to read so I’ll end this with a video showing a cuttlefish changing colours. It’s pretty trippy.

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Fun Fact Friday: Squid Quo Pro

Welcome to the blog’s newest addition, Fun Fact Friday (FFF, or F³)


You are about to be one of the smartest squids in your class!

Fact: Squids have donut shaped brains that encircle their esophagus.

see diagram:

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Every bite a squid takes passes through the brain (just food for thought, haha). Swallowing a large enough piece of food could result in brain damage, i.e. death. I have an inkling that between the strong beaks, the saliva enzymes, and the rows of small sharp teeth the squid death toll due to over-eating must be pretty low..

And that’s it. I squid you all farewell for now!

Back in the Limelight

It’s been a long lime time since the last post, but here it is! So get your gin and tonic ready; the limes have arrived.

Have you ever wondered if limes float in water?
Probably not, but they do! (As long as they have a life jacket..)

Let’s demonstrate the beauty of buoyancy using two normal limes and two normal jars of water:

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These limes just float to the surface and just kind of bob around, so let’s skip ahead to where this gets interesting—

Same scenario: two limes, two jars of water; HOWEVER one lime is peeled, taking away it’s protective exterior.

Video CliffsNotes:

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The lime peel traps air in tiny pockets, which creates the buoyancy that pushes the lime upwards. Without that trapped air, the lime has no way to stay afloat. So always wear your lime life jacket!

Special thanks to my friends for the gift of inspiration
Song: Soco Amaretto Lime- Brand New

Womb Temperature

Things are warming up in science!
Last month a study was published involving eight lamb fetuses, in artificial wombs!

The artificial womb is essentially a clear plastic bag that is filled with a synthetic amniotic fluid. Attached to the bag is a mechanical placenta, a device that brings in nutrients, oxygen, and blood, as well as removes carbon dioxide and waste.

Over the span of 4 weeks, researchers observed lung and brain development, the lambs sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wiggled around, and even learned to swallow.

While this concept seems like something out of a Sci-Fi classic, researchers are actually hoping this technology will eventually benefit babies born prematurely.

Below is a video showing one of the lambs in the artificial womb:

 

 

For the Birds

While out in the field, I happened upon some aquatic birds—I believe they were Barrow’s Goldeneye ducks, which are thought to originally be from Iceland.

bgd*Note: I did not actually take this photo

My field companion managed to capture these alluring creatures on video while I provide commentary on the colour variations between sexes of birds:

 

Special thanks to my field companion for producing the video!( :

 

Mini-erals; pt. 3

I waited a few extra days to record this third and final crystal in the series because it’s arguably the coolest. That being said, I am proud to present the glow-in-the-dark moon crystal!

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I was unable to locate any information regarding what the “moon-base” actually consists of, but I’m assuming it’s packed with phosphors (particles that radiate visible light after being energized). Basically, after exposing these particles to light for a period of time they will slowly release their stored energy, emitting small amounts of “glowing” light.

So then the aqueous monoammonium phosphate solution was poured into the container.

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8 days later:

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Time to shed some light on the experiment (haha!). I exposed the crystal in the aqueous solution to a strong light for a about a minute and then I turned out the lights.

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After basking in the glow of these crystals, I poured out the aqueous solution and arranged the crystals in a protective housing. The sans-solution crystals were then exposed to light once again.

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Unfortunately, due to my extremely graceful nature, this experiment does not end happily.

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On the bright side, I still have the little glowing moon disk for future use..

 

 

 

Mini-erals; pt. 2

The next mineral I would like to showcase: aluminum potassium sulfate, sodium chloride, & brilliant blue FCF (aka the aquamarine crystal)!

Not much to explain about this mineral; I simply put the crystal compound containing aluminum potassium sulfate, sodium chloride, & brilliant blue FCF into a container. Next, I poured the same monoammonium phosphate solution from the previous post into the container.

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After four days of anxiously patiently waiting I discovered the crystal had grown, and was trying to escape.

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A fair amount of liquid had evaporated already, but in order to see the crystalline structures in the container I poured out the rest of the sapphire blue solution.

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I extracted the crystal structures that had grown in the container, and set them out to dry. After about five minutes I arranged them together into one little aquamarine crystal mass:

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Up Next: Mini-erals; pt. 3