Hyperbole is all good and fine, but there was true nerd-rage that "they" (note-species identified as "weirdest" by Huw Griffiths as per their aritcle-but still unqualified in the title) could presume to not only make a claim of "weirdest" ANYTHING but not to include an echinoderm??? -the WEIRDEST of all the animals??? and not a starfish or worm to speak of!
And especially from Antarctica! Where echinoderms are part of the dominant fauna!!??? And to add insult to injury-to claim that among the "weirdest" was a fish??? Bah. I say. Double Bah!
Anyway-just to show you HOW weird Antarctica can get I decided to show you not just 5 but TEN of the weirdest echinoderms and other invertebrates that I know!
All invertebrates. No fish.
Go and learn. There will be horror, amazement and intrigue...
1. Eulagisca gigantea- GIANT polynoid worm! 3 inch eversible proboscis! A member of the Polynoidae-a scale worm. Not much known about it. BIG! And can get up to about 9 inches to a foot long! Imagine meatloaf sized. Um. I'm guessing predatory.
(pictures below from the USNM US Antarctic Research Program)
Here's a video of this species (I think...) alive at about 0:41. Much more shaggy and loveable and not quite so toothy! (at least not that you can see)
2. Parborlasia corrugatus-Giant carnivorous/scavenger ribbon worms! Upwards of 3 feet long and in some cases-as thick as a garden hose and have the texture of jello. There's mucus. These things are crazy.
Key words: EAT EVERYTHING. ALIVE or DEAD. These have been fed almost everything-and they eat what's given them: fecal pellets, starfish, dead seal meat, fish, sponges, sea anemones, worms amphipods, penguin meat, sardine meat (with tomato sauce!) and on and on....
Plus they occur in abundance (especially around food)...
One of these days I should write these guys up on Echinoblog...
and remember this famous video? Those giant worms? THAT is Parborlasia!
3. Antarctic amphipods! Epimeria and others..There wasn't a lot known about the biology of these-but man, LOOK at em!! These are described species..KNOWN animals...
Epimeria macrodonta (fr. USNM USARP collection)
4. Flabellum-Stony coral that broods little baby coral! There's a neat paper by my colleagues Rhianne Waller, Paul Tyler and Craig Smith (here) which describes how these deep-sea Antarctic stony corals (related to the shallow kind everyone knows about) have LITTLE BABIES!!!
5. Weird Isopod Antarcturus hodgsoni So, you know those little sowbug/rollie pollies that you see in your garden??
Well, in Antarctica they get REALLY weird. There's spines and longer legs and and are actually kind of elongate. Bizarre.
GO read it..
Most of these are ONLY Antarctic. Yes, some are found outside the Antarctic via the deep-sea but when you hear the next message about "saving Antarctica" realize that even if some of these species don't occur exclusively in Antarctica, they have close ties.
There's something special about a place that gives you a world with neat beasts like the ones above. They aren't as cute and fuzzy as seals or penguins-but when you think about the incredible evolutionary story of THESE animals (many of those stories-we are STILL learning!) compared to the warm and fuzzies realize that Antarctica is not just a place for "weird" but a place for wonderous and unique...