Greater Argonaut

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"what the blazes!"

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Leopard Slug

Meet the positively peachy Leopard Slug, or in latin Limax maximus which means ‘Great Slug’!

Limax_maximus

These nocturnal spotty slimers are up to 25cm long, which makes them one of the largest land slugs in the world. Though it’s not their size that get these chaps into The Proceedings of the Ever so Strange… no… no… no.

Nor is it because they are one of the few carnivorous slugs, zipping around about four times faster than other slugs to gobble them up. It’s not because this slug has a shell… many slugs do hidden away in their body a tiny reminder of their evolutionary past. Or as Darwin exquisitely put it ‘rudimentary organs may be compared with the letters in a word, still retained in the spelling, but become useless in the pronunciation’.

Rather weird this slimy fellow is for many reasons, but there is one reason it has caused a right hullabaloo down at The Proceedings.

i say i'm looking for a certain type of lady

i say i'm looking for a certain type of lady

You see it turns out that the Leopard slug has a sex life that would make the Dutch blush. They court for hours, beginning by circling around each other slobbering all over their respective partner. After the hours of licky foreplay, the rather adventurous couple skedaddle up a tree, entwine around each other before lowering themselves down on a mucus string.

Once suspended in mid air…. actually while we’re here yes I do realize it does sound like I’ve hit the Claret pretty hard, but I swear this is all true… anyway… once in position, spinning around on their mucus string, a huge penis comes out of both of their heads, slugs of course being hermaphrodites.

racy stuff!

racy stuff!

(c) R Rosetta, Oregon State University

I know by now you think I’m actually having one of my opium flashbacks from my time in Kandahar, or even just had my fill of the laudanum I picked up in Harrods, still absolutely honestly this is what they do. They slide down their mucus string, and in mid air each with its enormous penis unsheathed from their head, their kilt-tilters tangle and wind around one another, much in the same way as the slugs themselves. The penises fan out into a rather smashing flower-like structure and they can at this stage exchange sperm. Sometimes the penises will become so entangled that apophallation is the only way to go… one will chew off the others penis. The de-tallywhackered slug will still be able to mate, just only as a lady. Usually, and indeed thankfully, it doesn’t always have to come to this. They will end mating by dropping down to the floor, and bimble off into the night to lay thousands of eggs.

So there it is Limax maximus… a really really great slug!

Published in: on August 18, 2009 at 10:55 am  Comments (6)  

Quahog Clam

You’re going to have to speak up he’s really rather old… no actually you’re really going to have to speak up as he lacks a sense of hearing… say hello, or don’t bally well bother wasting your time saying hello, to the oldest creature on the planet … the Quahog Clam.

Islandmuschel

To be brutally honest hearing isn’t the only faculty this really rather oblivious four hundred and five year old is amiss. He never knew that in his infancy Elizabeth I with her festering black teeth sat atop the throne, and a young William Shakespeare was just putting quill to parchment. He would have seen the pilgrims set sail to New England, if only he had the ability, to whom he would have presumably said a cordial how-do-you-do as they sailed past… if only he had a larynx. He was unaware when Nelson defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar, and at the ascension to the throne for Queen Victoria. He couldn’t give a hoot for a number of historic landmarks that he lived through to be perfectly honest… the invention of the telephone, penicillin, Darwinism, the atom bomb, the First and Second World Wars, even Margaret Thatcher’s dismantling of the welfare state was said to only rile him a tad.

Until, one day researchers from the University of Bangor, Wales… yes Welsh researchers… found him in the waters above Iceland he so fondly called home … there they counted the layers that he had laid down year by year… painstakingly over the centuries he had grown to just 3.4 inches across… and the researchers tallied 405 layers one for every year of his life… of course they killed the poor bugger in the process.

Published in: on July 16, 2009 at 8:29 am  Comments (5)  

Mimic Octopus

WE’VE MOVED HERE! COME SAY HELLO!

Animal impersonator can turn into a snake, crab, jellyfish, starfish, stingray, shrimp… …

Only recently discovered in 1998 this little Octopus has caused quite the stir down at the Proceedings of the Ever So Strange.

Quite simply it’s able to mimic an array of other animals to put the heebie jeebies up anything that might want to eat the little chap. Or it can pretend to be something nice and friendly, like a mate for a crab, only to gobble up some hapless creature. Here’s just a few nuggets of the Mimic Octopuses repertoire;

Bally marvellous is its ability not only to take on the shape, colour and texture of other animals it is also able to copy their movement. This is an extreme example of Batesian Mimicry, you know the thing you learnt at school, flies that look like wasps, snakes that are harmless that look like evil snakes. That sort of thing.

While most animal mimics only look like one creature that looks a bit shifty, the Mimic Octopus is able to imitate more than fifteen different species including Mantis Shrimp, Stingrays, Sea Snakes, Poisonous Lionfish, Crabs, Flatfish, Brittle Stars, Shells and Jellyfish. Flexibility is one key to this ability as Octopuses are amazingly malleable. They are so good at squidging themselves around that they can pass through the tiniest of holes, in fact its only obstacle is its rather solid eye, so they can get through a hole as small as their eye. It’s not advisable of course to try this yourself. Octopoids are also incredibly dextrous and can easily do a number of tasks, I gave this one to the Wifey to open jars when I’m not around.

Back to the little Mimic Octopus as this multi-talented chap has another trick up its sleeve. You see they are very clever. These Molluscs may be in the same phylum as the shellfish, but they are definitely not in the same class at school. Octopoids are really rather bright. They have been shown to have personalities, they exhibit tool use, and one researcher even reported that they like to play – pop a ball in a tank with an Octopus and they like to bounce it. So what our little friend the Mimic Octopus is able to do is pick which animal to impersonate to scare which type of animal away … a snake for a fish … and what not … really rather splendid little thing isn’t it.

One final note should be given to another Indonesian resident; the Coconut Octopus who not surprisingly imitates a Coconut and uses two of its tentacles to walk / float away.

I think you’ll agree that though his repertoire is small the Coconut Octopus really does appear to have his turn down to a tee. The Mimic Octopus however, while having a great repertoire, is said to do a truly dreadful impression of a Pineapple.

Humboldt Squid

WE’VE MOVED HERE! COME SAY HELLO!

These evil buggers are two metres long, incredibly intelligent, have tentacles covered in teeth and swarm in their thousands. What’s more they enjoy a chomp on human flesh once in a while so it’s no wonder the natives call them ‘el Diablo Rojo’ … the Red Devils.

There are many reports of huge shoals of Diablo Rojo’s attacking fishermen, divers, each other, underwater cameras, anything that they bally well actually see to be perfectly honest. What’s more the evil buggers shoal and attack with their tooth filled tentacles, that grab and tear and pull towards their sharp beak-like mouth which doesn’t sound like too much fun. Found in the Sea of Cortez and Northern Peru, the good news for our Stateside readers is they are spreading, multiplying … moving Northwards up through California … all the way up to Alaska. So do take care next time you take a dip.

Squid, along with the Octopus and the Cuttlefish make up the really rather clever Cephalopod family. The Cephalopods are in fact Molluscs, yes the same group of animals that include Snails, Slugs, Clams, Oysters, Mussels. Of course telling the Giant Humboldt Squid that they are in fact jumped up shellfish is not a very good idea.

In their short life spans the Cephalopods exhibit remarkable intelligence; some use tools, others appear to play and many have personalities. Of course the Humboldt Squid has a range of personalities these include; Git, Bastard, Tallywhacker and Bastard again.

The Humboldt Squid can communicate with one another. They have chromatophores in their skin that allow the Squid to quickly change colour to talk with other Squid, rather like a flashing billboard. No-one knows what the Squid are actually saying, it is however very likely that what they are saying … isn’t very nice.