Friday Fellow: Ocean Sunfish

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Let’s swim to the world of fishes once more. And today we are meeting the heaviest of the bony ones, the ocean sunfish!

mola_mola

The ocean sunfish looks like a giant piece of mushroom, don’t you think? Photo by Per-Ola Norman.

Scientifically known as Mola mola, the ocean sunfish is found in tropical and temperate oceanic waters throughout the world and has a very strange look. And this is not the only strange thing about it. More than being the heaviest bony fish in the world, weighing up to 1,000 kg, it feeds almost exclusively on jellyfish, eating a huge amount of them to become that big. Also, the female ocean sunfish is known to produce up to 300 million eggs at a time, more than any other vertebrate!

The weird lump on their rear end is not a caudal fin. Actually, sunfish have no tail at all. This structure, called clavus, is formed by projections of the dorsal and anal fins.

Despite their huge size, sunfishes are not a direct threat to humans. People can swim among them without any problem. The most common forms of accidents with these fish are caused when boats collide with them or when a sunfish jumps out of the water and ends up inside a boat. Imagine a 500-kg fish landing on your head!

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References:

McGrouther, Mark (2011).”Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola“. Australian Museum Online. Available at <http://australianmuseum.net.au/ocean-sunfish-mola-mola&gt;. Access on December 8, 2016.

Wikipedia. Ocean sunfish. Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_sunfish&gt;. Access on December 8, 2016.

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Friday Fellow: Indian shot

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

Today’s Friday Fellow may not seem to be such an astonishing plant, but it has its peculiarities, some of them quite interesting.

Commonly known as Indian shot, African arrowroot, purple arrowroot, and many other names, it was called Canna indica by Linnaeus in his work Species Plantarum. In fact, Canna indica is the first plant named in the book, so it could be seen as the first life form to receive a valid binomial name.

canna_indica

A small-flowered, possibly wild variety of Indian shot. Photo by flickr user peganum.*

Despite being called Indian shot or African arrowroot, this species is actually native from the Americas, especially South America, although it may be found as far north as the southern United States. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and several varieties exist. It is also naturalized in many parts of Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and many Pacific islands.

The subterranean rhizomes of the Indian shot are edible and were a food crop cultivated by the original inhabitants of the Americas, although is much less used nowadays. The rhizomes may be eaten raw or baked or cooked. The seeds, which are small, globular and black, are very hard and dense and can even be used as bullets, hence the name Indian shot.

canna_indica_2

Seeds and flowers of Canna indica. Photo by Wikimedia user B.navez.*

The Indian shot is sometimes used to remove nutrients from wastewaters, being cultivated in constructed wetlands where the wastewaters are kept for purification. There are also  some studies pointing to its use as an inhibitor of the activity of the protein reverse transcriptase of  HIV.

Isn’t it a nice fellow, after all?

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References:

Cui, L., Ouyang, Y., Lou, Q., Yang, F., Chen, Y., Zhu, W., & Luo, S. (2010). Removal of nutrients from wastewater with Canna indica L. under different vertical-flow constructed wetland conditions Ecological Engineering, 36 (8), 1083-1088 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2010.04.026

Wikipedia. Canna indica. Availabe at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canna_indica&gt;. Access on December 2, 2016.

Woradulayapinij, W., Soonthornchareonnon, N., & Wiwat, C. (2005). In vitro HIV type 1 reverse transcriptase inhibitory activities of Thai medicinal plants and Canna indica L. rhizomes Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 101 (1-3), 84-89 DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2005.03.030

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New Species: November 21 to 30

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described from November 21 to November 30. It certainly does not include all described species. Most information comes from the journals Mycokeys, Phytokeys, Zookeys, Phytotaxa, Zootaxa, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, and Systematic and Applied Microbiology, as well as journals restricted to certain taxa.

neoserica

Neoserica fugongensis, N. mantillieri and N. dongjiafenensis are three new beetle species described in the past 10 days.

Bacteria

SARs

Plants

Fungi

Sponges

Flatworms

Mollusks

Nematodes

Arachnids

Myriapods

Crustaceans

Hexapods

Echinoderms

Ray-finned Fishes

Lissamphibians

Mammals

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Filed under Systematics, taxonomy

Friday Fellow: Persian Carpet Flatworm

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

A flatworm again, at last! Not a land planarian, but a flatworm nonetheless.

If there is a group of flatworms that may put land planarians in second plan regarding beauty, those are the polyclads. Living in the sea, especially in coral reefs, polyclads are colorful and curly and may be mistaken by sea slugs.

The species I’m introducing here today is Pseudobiceros bedfordi, commonly known as the Persian carpet flatworm or Bedford’s flatworm. It is about 8 cm long and lives in coral reefs along Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and adjacent areas. See how beautiful it is:

A flatworm (Pseudobiceros bedfordi). Raging Horn, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea

The Persian carpet flatworm with its beautiful colors. Photo by Richard Ling.*

The colorful pattern of this and many other polyclad species is likely a warning about their toxicity, although there are few studies regarding toxicity in these animals. Being active predators, polyclads may use their toxins as a way to subdue prey as well.

But the most interesting thing regarding the Persian carpet flatworm is its sexual behavior. As with most flatworms, they are hermaphrodites, so when two individuals meet and decide to have sex, they have to choose whether they want to play the male or the female role (or both). Unfortunately, most individuals prefer to be males, so those encounters usually end up in a violent fight in which both animals attack the partner with a double penis, a behavior known as penis fencing.

mating_pseudobiceros_bedfordi

Two Persian carpet flatworms about to engage in penis fencing. Photo from Whitfield (2004), courtesy of Nico Michiels.**

At the end, the winner spurts its sperm onto the partner and leaves. The horrible part is yet to come, though. The sperm appears to be able to burn like acid through the receiver’s skin tissue in order to reach the inner tissues and thus swim towards the eggs. In some extreme cases the sperm load may be high enough to tore the receiver into pieces! If that’s not a good definition of wild sex, I don’t know what is.

See also: Gender Conflict: Who’s the man in the relationship?

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References:

Whitfield, J. (2004). Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sexes PLoS Biology, 2 (6) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020183

Wikipedia. Pseudoceros bedfordi. Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudobiceros_bedfordi&gt;. Access on November 24, 2016.

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New Species: November 11 to 20

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described from November 11 to  November 20. It certainly does not include all described species. Most information comes from the journals Mycokeys, Phytokeys, Zookeys, Phytotaxa, Zootaxa, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, and Systematic and Applied Microbiology, as well as journals restricted to certain taxa.

liolaemus_leftrarui

Liolaemus leftrarui is a new lizard species described in the past 10 days.

Hacrobians

SARs

Plants

Excavates

Fungi

Cnidarians

Rotifers

Annelids

Arachnids

Crustaceans

Insects

Ray-finned fishes

Lissamphibians

Reptiles

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Filed under Systematics, taxonomy

Friday Fellow: Floating Crystalwort

by Piter Kehoma Boll

If you own an aquarium at home, you may already know this fellow, as it is very popular among aquarists. Its scientific name is Riccia fluitans, but it is colloquially known as floating crystalwort.

riccia_fluitans

Riccia fluitans growing on a wet terrestrial substrate. Photo by Christian Fischer.*

As its name suggest, the floating crystalwort is usually found floating on water, but it can also grow on a substrate in damp areas near water bodies or, more rarely, on underwater substrate.

The floating crystalwort is a liverwort, belonging to a group of simple and primitive plants with no specialized tissues, that usually grow as a flattened thallus. When floating, Riccia fluitans forms a green mesh that is used by juvenile fish as a shelter.

riccia_fluitans2

The floating crystalwort floating in an aquarium. Photo by Piotr Kuczynski.*

In research, the floating crystalwort is highly used to study bioaccumulation of elements and properties of the cell membrane, such as transmembrane transports.

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References:

Chojnacka, K. 2007. Biosorption and bioaccumulation of microelements by Riccia fluitans in single and multi-metal system. Bioresource Technology, 98(15): 2919-2925.

Johannes, E.; Felle, H. 1987. Implications for cytoplasmic pH, protonmotice force, and amino-acid transport across the plasmalemma of Riccia fluitansPlanta, 172(1): 53-59.

Wikipedia. Riccia fluitans. Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riccia_fluitans >. Access on November 17, 2016.

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Friday Fellow: Wheel Necklace Diatom

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

Most of you likely know what diatoms are, microscopic algae with a silica shell that are very abundant in the world’s oceans and one of the main oxygen producers. You may have seen images like the one below, showing the diversty of diatoms, but can you name a single species?

diatoms

The beautiful, yet largely neglected by non-experts, diversity of diatoms. Photo by Wikimedia user Wipeter.*

Today I decided to bring you a diatom Friday Fellow and let me tell you: it was not at all easy to select a nice species with a considerable amount of available information and a good picture. But at the end the winner of the First Diatom Friday Fellow Award was…

Thalassiosira rotula!

thalassiosira_rotula

Three connected individuals of Thalassiosira rotula. Photo by micro*scope.**

As with most microorganisms, this species has no common name and, as it is a tradition here, I decided to make one up and chose wheel necklace diatom. Necklace diatom seems to be a good common name for species in the genus Thalassiosira, as they are formed by several individuals connected to each other in a pattern that resembles a necklace. I decided to call this particular species wheel necklace diatom because of its specific epithet, rotula, which means little wheel in Latin.

The wheel necklace diatom is a marine species found worldwide close to the coast. It is very abundant and the dominant species in some areas, so it is of great ecological importance. Small planctonic crustaceans, such as copepods, usually feed on the wheel necklace diatom and, as those crustaceans are used as food for much larger animals, the wheel necklace diatom is responsible for sustaining a whole food chain.

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References:

Ianora, A., Poulet, S., Miralto, A., & Grottoli, R. (1996). The diatom Thalassiosira rotula affects reproductive success in the copepod Acartia clausi Marine Biology, 125 (2), 279-286 DOI: 10.1007/BF00346308

Krawiec, R. (1982). Autecology and clonal variability of the marine centric diatom Thalassiosira rotula (Bacillariophyceae) in response to light, temperature and salinity Marine Biology, 69 (1), 79-89 DOI: 10.1007/BF00396964

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Filed under Algae, Botany, Friday Fellow, protists