I've lived in North Carolina for over ten years, but until today I had never seen or heard of a luna moth (Actias luna). I was pleasantly surprised to find a large gorgeous green moth waiting for me on the bricks of my apartment building. It had beautiful light green wings with purple trim, golden fern-like antennae, a fuzzy white body, four lovely eye spots, and long tails. Read more
Huge green and purple moth: luna moth
Why starfish (Asteroidea) are awesome
Seemingly adorable and innocuous, starfish are actually vicious predators, the mere mention of which would fill you with heart-stopping terror if you were a mollusc or other small marine invertebrate. And actually, considering that several starfish species brandish poisonous spines, people should probably be more afraid of them, too. In fact, starfish is too cute a name (and too inaccurate, as starfish are not "fish" at all); I propose that we start calling them death-stars. Read more →
Why Formicids (ants) are awesome
If you get down to it, ants are basically super tiny people that happen to have an exoskeleton. They live in cities of up to several hundred million, with individual ants taking specific jobs, and they even essentially have a monarchical government (don't hold it against them; we humans have only just recently started experimenting with other forms of government). If a mere social structure doesn't impress you, however, read on to find out why ants are awesome. Read more →
Creatures of the early Paleozoic
This list briefly describes the creatures appeared (and not necessarily when they disappeared, if they did). Keep in mind that all of the creatures listed are marine, and most are soft-bodied invertebrates. Of course, this list doesn't even come close to covering all the Paleozoic creatures, just the ones I found worth mentioning -- if you think I missed one, let me know in the comments! Click on the images to enlarge; hover to see photo credit in alt-text (many are from Nobu Tamura). Read more →
Whaling of the Right Whale
This article will summarize the history of whaling of Eubalaena glacialis, including why the right whale was favored, how they were captured, killed and processed, as well as the impacts that hunting had on right whale populations.
Written in conjunction with Daniela Benavides with for BIO 376: Marine Mammals at Duke University, Summer 2013. Read more →
See-through glass frogs
Glass frogs are seriously way too cool, down to their crazy eyes and their visible innards. Via IFLS: "Glass frogs are a group of South and Central American frogs with translucent skin. Their internal viscera, including the heart, liver, and gastrointestinal tract, are all completely visible." The transparency is thought to help them camouflage. Read more →
Why Poriferans (sponges) are awesome
I've talked about why despite their slow rap, snails are actually awesome -- but if there's a creature more seemingly boring than a snail, it's the sponge. Evolutionarily, sponges are among the oldest, most basal multi-cellular animals, and as such, they're very simple, lacking organs and the ability to move -- but despite this, they've come up with some clever body engineering. Read more →
Sponging dolphins: cute & clever
Did you know that dolphins use tools, and look adorable while doing so?
Bottlenose dolphins in Australia's Shark Bay like to snack on seafloor-dwelling fish (like sandperch), a food choice that presents two problems. First, these fish lack swimbladders and therefore cannot be echolocated effectively; second, the substrate they inhabit is scattered with sharp rocks and shells, which obscure the fish and conspire to injure a dolphin's nose. One group of dolphins came up with a clever way to enjoy their benthic prey: they harvest sponges and wear them on their faces. The sponge protects the dolphin's rostrum while it digs around in the seafloor, until it runs into a fish and scares it out of the ground to be eaten. After about an hour, when the sponges become too worn down to serve as a shield, the dolphins replace them with fresh ones. Furthermore, the dolphins pass the knowledge of sponging on from generation to generation. Read more details in this scientific paper.
Sea sounds: sci-fi seals, screaming manatees
You've probably the playful whistling of dolphins and the majestic songs of whales, but some marine mammals just don't get the appreciation they deserve when it comes to acoustics -- probably because they sound creepy or hilarious.
All about Squilla empusa, the American mantis shrimp
Note: This was written for a school project. It will be featured as a chapter in an Apple iBooks textbook released by Duke University about Beaufort marine invertebrates.
Latin Name: Squilla empusa (Mantis Shrimp)
Taxonomy: Animalia (Kingdom) > Arthropoda (Phylum) > Crustacea (Subphylum) > Malacostraca (Class) > Hoplocarida (Subclass) > Stomatopoda (Order) > Unipeltata (Suborder) > Squilloidea (Superfamily) > Squillidae (Family) > Squilla (Genus)