Bigger and Smaller – UW Macros

Posted in Under the Sea on December 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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My Grandmother’s house was full of treasures. I was allowed to play with some of them. Going to Grandma’s was like getting out of jail. I could “express myself” ’til the cows came home. While other boys were playing with dump trucks and fire engines (small ones, of course) my favorite toys were a pen knife and a magnifying glass. You don’t need much imagination to understand that Grandma’s yard was a dangerous place for insects and other small organisms.

I can’t say how many ants were mercilessly torched by that magnifying glass. Many fat grasshoppers fell under the knife and were dissected for the sake of knowledge. I honestly don’t know if insects suffer while undergoing such treatment; it can’t be much fun for them. I’d like to think that I’ve made amends as an adult. Since I stopped hunting (with a gun) years ago, I’ve made it a point to harm nothing. I’ve grown to enjoy the tickley sensation of a spider navigating the forest on my arm. My motto is, if it doesn’t try to hurt me, I won’t try to hurt it. Mosquitoes beware!

All that claptrap was just to get to this. Little things are fun to examine, if you can get them big enough to see. For example:  here is a slightly larger-than-life image of a colony of the Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica):Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica)Each individual polyp is about half of the diameter of a pencil eraser.

Now, let’s blow them up to see how they are made:Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica) [enlarged]Hmmm . . . quite a revelation. All of that detail is hidden from our knowledge without the aid of something more powerful than the Mark I Eyeball. We wouldn’t know about the delicate fringes around the ‘petals’ and the oddly shaped yellow doohicky in the centre. We can only wonder what they are for, but now we can at least see them. Knowing a little about invertebrates, I can tell you that form follows function. Everything you see there has to do with eating, excreting or making more polyps. That’s about it for coral. It’s a simple life. No big brain to get bored. No brain at all!

Here is another coral (Pachyseris speciosa)  that is mildly amusing, in a very wrinkly way, but not likely to inspire a sonnet:Coral (Pachyseris speciosa)Oh, wrinkly, wrinkly coral. Your colour unlike sorrel. Not thought to be immoral. blah blah blah – you get the picture. It’s a long reach.

But wait! If you blow it up . . .Coral (Pachyseris speciosa) [enlarged]Now it’s getting more interesting. What the heck is  that? You could write something creepy about that. It’s like a million wiry snakes all making love to each other (where did that  come from?). Anyway, it’s more interesting.

Here is another specimen of Pachyseris speciosa  with Seriatopora caliendrum  towering over it:

Coral (Pachyseris speciosa)
There is quite a bit of colour variation between specimens. I’ve seen a few that were green, but that may be from algal contamination.

I’ll finish up with one of my favourite little things, the lovely Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus):Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)Pure white ones, such as this are not common. There are about a zillion base colours and a gozillion ways to mix them up. The little parasols come in pairs, as they are both appendages of the same individual worm.

To annoy you further, I cheerfully ripped this section from Wikipedia so that you may be fully informed.

The worm is aptly named; Both its common and Latin names refer to the two, chromatically-hued spiral structures that are most commonly what is seen of the worm by divers. In actuality, these multicolored spirals are merely the worm’s highly-derived respiratory structures.

S. giganteus  appears like most tube-building polychaetes. It has a tubular, segmented body lined with chaeta, small appendages that aids the worm with its mobility. As it does not move outside its tube, this worm does not have any specialized appendages for movement or swimming.

The worm’s most distinct features are the two “crowns” that are shaped like Christmas-trees. These “crowns” are actually highly modified prostomial palps which are specialized mouth appendages of the worm. Each spiral is actually composed of feather-like tentacles called radioles, which are heavily ciliated which allows any prey that are trapped in them to be transported straight towards the worm’s mouth. While they are primarily feeding structures, S. giganteus  also uses its radioles for respiration. It is because of this that the structures are commonly called “gills”

Now, when Santa comes, you can engage him in a conversation that will daze and confuse him.

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