Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Some Excellent Japanese Echinoderms! Textures and Closeups!

I've been in Japan for the last 6 weeks studying Japanese sea stars at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tsukuba, Japan!

As this is my last week at the museum I thought I would share some neat pics of some of the interesting echinoderms that I've encountered over the last few weeks....

Trophodiscus almus. This is an unusual species, which brood baby sea stars on its top surface! You see those weird round to star shaped white spots on the surface? Those are the juveniles which live on the surface among the "forest" of spines present..
 A close up....  I've featured this species before as seen in Japan, courtesy of my colleague Yoichi Kogure!!   The Japanese name for this species is komochi-momiji, aka the "starfish with babies"

Close up of the stalked crinoid Saracrinus nobilis!  This closeup shows us the arrangement of plates on the various arms and how they fuse together to form the various skeletal architecture used to identify them and to compose the arm structure..
A picture of the stalk.. note the angles!!  Cool!
A slightly different crinoid.. a feather star. (an unstalked vs. the stalked species above).but a closeup of the arms and how they articulate and form different fused pieces...
Here's the spines of a beautiful species, Coelopleurus maculata! I've covered Coelopleurus briefly before. Their tests are naturally rich and colorful!!   
Again, to emphasize: The spine colors are NATURAL. nothing added!!

Here's what I believe to be Prionocidaris baculosa.. also with some unusual spine patterns...

An unidentified white cidaroid urchin with some wonderful spination...

an interesting tropical basket star!

and of course, OGMASTER!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Deep-Sea Starfish Mouths: What do YOU see?

Dytaster sp. 
So, the other day I showed some of my friends one of these close up shots and the reaction was varied. I said "BLEARGH" for one, some agreed. Some disagreed. Some were offended!! 

Others below I said were a "grin" which met with some disagreement. Who knew such contention came out of these closeups...

Are these close up of the mouths of Japanese deep-sea sea stars some kind of undiscovered rorchach blot? A window into the soul?? 

What do you see? 
Lithsoma sp.
Distolasterias sp.
Thanks again to the National Museum of Nature and Science for their support of my visit!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Natural History in Unexpected Places: WONDERFEST-Japanese Science Fiction Toy Show!

JAPAN! So many amazing things! Sometimes in unexpected places!!

Today, an unusual post. As many of you know I'm currently visiting Japan to study the Sea Stars of Japan at the National Museum of Nature and Science. 

In a happy coincidence with this year's visit, my trip took place at the same time as the massive Japanese science fiction/toy and model-kit show called Wonder Festival.  I have a uh... passing interest in Japanese pop culture.. Godzilla, Ultraman, so forth...and so, why not? I've never been to one.. I wonder what its like??

HUGE. A massive space with a massive crowd! 

Much of it was pretty much what you would expect. Renditions of everyone's favorite Japanese monsters, robots and so on...

But one of the things I had NOT expected was to see how this incredible pool of artists, craftsmakers, modellers, and even retailers were heavily influenced by Natural History! 

Here in this enclave of fantasy were an innumerable number of items which were inspired by the natural world!!  I saw everything from actual animal skulls for sale to various figure kits and monsters inspired by insects, sea stars and more!

I don't know if I should have been surprised but I was VERY impressed by how creative and frankly, f*cking STUNNING some of the art and displays were... and yes much of it for sale.

I've mentioned in other posts, how the Japanese apparently have a pretty huge appreciation for natural history and an inordinate fondness, if not outright obsession with various marine invertebrates.. 

But pictures were encouraged and so here's a cross-sample of things that caught my eye. I'll be honest and say that at the time I didn't think to capture the names of the companies and artists who created these items. And so, the omission of their names is my fault... but knowing how much of these things exist is a pretty awesome fact in and of itself...

A steampunk Fangtooth Fish! My pictures don't do it justice..
A real one for comparison...
and here is a nice Steampunk rendition of what I believe is Sternoptyx, aka the hatchetfish! another resident of the deep-sea
But steampunk fish were not the only fish in attendance. Actual fish skeletons were also to be had! Here are some cool preps in tiny glass/plastic boxes!!
And one closeup of a particularly cool one...
Invertebrates were also well-represented!! Here are some resin or porcelin (not sure I remember) highly detailed STOMATOPOD figures! Each about 2 inches (6 cm) long. 
Origami has a LONG history in Japan..and so a good representation of paper craft displaying various marine animals was on display...
But MY favorite??? The paper craft model of the Cambrian predator Anomalocaris!! 

Some interesting snails with a skull motif!! 

I don't honestly remember what these figures were made of but they were visually AMAZING.

Here.. some horseshoe crabs that have never looked better! 
Some colorful but more conventional crabs...
Some Coelacanth action! 
A rockin' green lobster! 

And then, there was this guy, who had metal casts of various crabs in various sizes... these are parthenopids I believe (elbow crabs).

One guy was selling these stunning Bismuth samples!! The surface oxidizes giving it these brilliant colors

and of course, you always got the classic: Paleozoic Anomalocaris and Dunkleosteus vinyl figures!