Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Echinoblog Travelog! Pt. 4 Stories from Tsukuba & Japan!

Travel is about experiences. Here are some of mine.... Starfish and not....

1. Starfish Story! 
Found this cool disk from the starfish Plazaster borealis the other day.  I am somewhat obsessed with this starfish (see this blog). It goes by the common name "tako hitode" aka the "octopus starfish" and we know next to nothing about it.  Sadly, this specimen was found without arms. Probably something that happened when it was collected....

Cool thing about this and the specimen lot it was found in?? Collected in 1932.  This species of starfish was originally described in 1938. That means, this specimen was actually collected SIX years before the species was actually described by Dr. Tohru Uchida.
 Here's what the animal looks like in its natural state. Almost 40 arms! But they disarticulate pretty easily.

2. Starfish-Worm Story!
The other day, I encountered this: polynoid polychaete worms which live commensally on the starfish Solaster borealis! STILL attached and living to their "host".

To give you some perspective, here is what the animal looks like in situ (from the North American side of the Pacific). 
This image from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute! 
And here is a close up of the worms living inside the mouth and tube foot grooves of the starfish...
With this Japanese Solaster borealis, we are seeing the relationship among some relatively deep-sea species but this type of relationship is also seen on several North American species of Solaster, such as this one from a shallow-water Washington species.

Where better to live/feed than on the "top dog" starfish predator like Solaster?  (or any starfish for that matter!)

3. Tunicate Food Story!
Travelling to foreign lands and new places means trying new foods and dishes that you don't normally get to try when you are at home. Sometimes, these dishes can be quite exotic.

Case in point: after a presentation at the University of Tokyo, I was treated to some hospitality including the opportunity to try hoya aka raw sea squirt or tunicate! 
I wrote a post about exotic invertebrates eaten around the world here. Here is a picture of what hoya looks like alive.
What does it taste like? Hm. An acquired taste certainly. Kind of sour and medicine-like is probably the most polite way to put it... Not one of my favorites but glad that I tried it!

4. Bathroom Story!
This one is a simple lesson in keeping track of different kinds of plumbing! Behold my bathrooom set up!

The shower is nozzle connected to the sink faucet. Very efficient. There's a shunt switch that routes water either to the faucet OR to the shower head. The shower head is used in the bathtub, where it can drain. But it is stored on the wall up there over the sink.

Sometimes you forget that the shunt switch is turned to "shower" instead of "sink" AND you have replaced the shower head on the wall.

Looking to brush your teeth and BOOM!  That was messy. 

5. EARTH Story! 
So I'm workin' one night, when "I-san" a worker in the lab, who speaks only a little english, gets up and starts saying "oscillate" ????  Odd.  

So, I get up and he's pointing to the mini-fridge shaped air vent sitting above my seat (above). Big, but held up by big metal struts. It is ROCKING back and forth. The rest of the lab, the floor seems perfectly stationary.  "Ground is shaking because of Earth moving" He says. My eyes open wide, as I grasp what he is saying and realize, "Oh crap, we're having an earthquake!"  

It was a 5.1... and I very nearly ignored it. Yow. 
Info for the quake can be found here. 

There's a HUGE Diversity  of starfishes in Japan...
Whew! I'm winding down the trip to Tsukuba/Tokyo and the National Museum of Nature and Science!  I'm finding a HUGE diversity of sea stars in the collections. When I arrived, there was an estimated 200 species in Japan. When I leave, this number will be significantly higher!  Many of them will be from deep-sea habitats.

Hopefully, this trip will only be Part One!


Unknown said...

Awesome Chris! Your post on Echinoderm-l about your visit to NMNS and Dr. Fujita's lab reminds me of the notes one reads from Clark- and Fisher-era literature, an interesting, personal and underpublished genre in our field. And great t shirt! Weve just found that your shirt's subject Enypniastes are derived members of a close group Elpidiidae - Pelagothuriidae is no more.

ChrisM said...

cool. thanks Alex!