Wednesday, August 1, 2012

01 August 2012 - ALIENS! ALIENS EVERYWHERE!


As we travel the shelf off the west coast in our tireless quest of the deep sea for north pacific hake and Humboldt squid, we have met many sophisticated and diverse critters. We have come across all sorts of life from larval fish to ctenophores to chaetognaths to snow crab zoea to shrimp parasites to juvenile octopus and squid (my favorite!). It is amazing to think that the deep ocean – a place that few have really seen - has such an amazing array of life. As we take up new net tows for analyzing, one of my main jobs has been sorting the different organisms for our density-titration experiments.
MEEP that’s a lot! Photo by Emily Markowitz
In my humble opinion, the neatest organisms we have come across is this amphipod…
RHHHHHAAAAAAA! ATTTAAAACCCKKKKKKK!!!! Photo by Emily Markowitz
Does she look familiar? She might… the amphipod or a close relative of the amphipod above in the Phronima sp. is said to be the inspiration for James Cameron’s Alien in the movie “Aliens,” 1986. I can understand why they chose this critter! Amphipods are incredibly hardy, lively and have fast-snatching claws so they can prey on smaller invertebrates and amphipods (as well as decaying material). For more info, check out: http://arthropoda.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/did-phronima-inspire-the-design-of-the-alien-queen/ and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090605/
The funny thing about this inspiration is that, while the Aliens on the screen are so big… This Phronima was only 27 mm in length! Now imagine that most other amphipods are much smaller and many can’t really be seen by the naked eye!
But honestly, the coolest thing about this gal is her relationship with another deep sea organism, the tunicate.
Bet you can’t find me! Photo by Emily Markowitz
Oh, OK. Fine then. You got me! Welcome to my tunicate home! Photo by Emily Markowitz
They have a parasitic relationship which is apparently very common among these two species. In it, the female amphipod finds a free floating tunicate and devours the inside tissue. She uses it as a home to lay her eggs. The orange dots in the walls of the tunicate are her developing young’ins!
This is just one of the interesting organisms we have pulled up in our net tows.
More later!
Em

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