Poking The Locals

[I can only wonder what WordPress’ depraved auto random generator of “possibly related posts” will come up with based on today’s post title, but never mind… just know that I have nothing to do with it.]

Last week I got the thrill of visiting the science lab’s touch tank, and of coming nearly mouth to parasitic worm-infested mouth with a fine specimen of Trematomus bernacchii. Alas, I did not have my camera. That time.

Last night I went back to the lab for their Wednesday night lecture series… unlike the generalist Science Sundays, Wednesdays are geared more for the scientific community. The presenter is running a project to drill through both sea ice and bits of the Ross Ice Shelf down into the continental shelf. There are a bunch of reasons to do this, aside from the fact that it is a pretty damn cool party icebreaker, no pun intended, to say “I drill through both sea ice and bits of the Ross Ice Shelf down into the continental shelf.”

They’re hoping to get core samples of sediment that will help us understand more about how the earth has continued to shape and reshape itself. This year they’re just here to survey sites for the following season, when they hope to drill through the 250-meter thick ice shelf and check out some “anomalies” and “unconformities.”

Which is the non-generalist’s way of saying “dude, there’s some weird crap down there. Let’s try to dig it up.”

They’ve been here several summers already, though, and have some cool websites that do a much better job of explaining it all than I’m currently doing, because, truth be told, while the presentation was interesting and the scientist seemed like a nice guy, what I really want to talk about are sea spiders.

So if sediment cores and drill bits tickle your fancy, check out The Andrill Project and also a site where you can look at cross-sections of all the core samples they’ve already retrieved from previous drilling expeditions. The Andrill Project site in particular has a few cool educational things they’ve done to explain their research to middle school kids.

After the lecture, I headed back down to the bottom of the lab where they keep all the critters they fish up from the depths. I was hoping to score a photo of the Emerald rock cod (Trematomus bernacchii) I’d met last week. Well… I wasn’t expecting a whole tankful of them, not to mention some very cool additions to the touch tank. Behold:

Tankful of Trematomus bernacchii

One of them exhibiting typical Trematomus bernacchii behavior: find a surface, vertical or horizontal, and just hang out. No need to expend energy.

One thing they do a lot in the tank is come up to the surface and stick their heads out. The marine biologists told me they don't know why they do it. It's not a learned behavior, since the fish do it before they're even fed in the tank, but they also think it's not a sign of distress.

The marine biologist there last night said he thinks the fish may be sticking their heads out of the water for the novelty... normally, they live all their lives not just in the sea, at about 60m depth, but under the ice. This is their first exposure to air. Maybe they stick their heads out for the same reason we bipeds stick our fingers into the water. Just 'cuz.

Touch Tank Mania! Let the Poking and Prodding Begin!

The large sea sponge towards the back felt like a giant, cold corn fritter.

I didn't disturb these two. They looked like they were, uhm, busy.

Poking a sea anemone. The funky neon yellow-green blob to the right of it is a sea slug that actually felt quite hard. It reminded me of a thick-walled dog squeaky toy.

Poking a sea spider, which seemed rather annoyed at the interaction. Sea spiders can get more than twice as big as this little guy.

I dunno what the hell it is, but I ain't pokin' it. (But only because it wasn't in the touch tank; it was in one of the actual experiment tanks)

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2 thoughts on “Poking The Locals

  1. Way cool. But you did wash your hands before going back to the kitchen, right???

    This is one hell of an adventure and thanks for keep us all living it vicariously.

  2. You mentioned parasitic worms again just to gross me out, didn’t you?

    But seriously, maybe the Trematomus bernacchii stick their heads out of the water for the same reason dogs stick their head out car windows — cuz it feels good. Eh, it’s a theory.

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