Sea Squirts – Living On the Edge

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On Saturday we went out to Magic Passage in Faded Glory.  This is the first dive that we’ve done with her since she rolled over and sank on the day we left for Australia. I was a bit apprehensive, because submerging your boat in salt water is not something that is good for it. There was a stong current coming through the passage into the anchorage and the water was wonderfully clear. Unfortunately, there was a thin layer of condensation inside my camera housing, so I got no images. I did not warm the camera and housing  to drive out any moisture before sealing it.

So, today I’ll show some images of a few of the very strange creatures commonly known as sea squirts. More properly called tunicates, sea squirts live just above the edge between invertebrates and vertebrates. Because I am so lazy I ripped this directly from the Wikipedia article on tunicates.

Most tunicates feed by filtering sea water through pharyngeal slits, but some are sub-marine predators such as the Megalodicopia hians. Like other chordates, tunicates have a notochord during their early development, but lack myomeric segmentation throughout the body and tail as adults. Tunicates lack the kidney-like metanephridial organs, and the original coelom body-cavity develops into a pericardial cavity and gonads. Except for the pharynx, heart and gonads, the organs are enclosed in a membrane called an epicardium, which is surrounded by the jelly-like mesenchyme. Tunicates begin life in a mobile larval stage that resembles a tadpole, later developing into a barrel-like and usually sedentary adult form.

There. That is probably way more than you wanted to know.

This is one sea squirt which you have seen many times before here in MPBM. It is Didemnum molle:

It is very delicate and floppy. It reminds me of a bag full of lettuce.

I still have some difficulty knowing for certain whether I am looking at a sea squirt colony or something else. I am pretty sure that this is a colony, but I can’t identify the species:

My resource book tries to cover all of the invertebrates of the Indo-Pacific region, so it contains only a tiny fraction of all species.

Again, I’m at a loss to identify the species, but I’m reasonably certain that this is a sea squirt colony. There is a bit of overlap in appearance between some sea squirts and some sponges; this complicates identification, at least for me, a rank amateur:

This is another bag-like sea squirt, though they are much smaller than the D. molle:

Just from these five images you can see the wide variety of forms. These colonies grow on little stalks which are not visible in this image. They look like strange little bushes growing on the reef:

Sea squirts are a hot topic in the field of medicine. Researchers have found chemicals which are effective treatments for various cancers. Other research indicates that there is quite a bit to learn from sea squirts which may teach us how to regenerate human organs.

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The bizarre parade of physical symptoms accompanying my grief and stress continues to march through my life. I wasn’t expecting this. For weeks, long before Eunie passed on to her reward, adrenaline was coursing through my body and giving me the shakes. Insomnia was my constant companion and still is. Three or four hours of sleep a night seems to be my limit. My toes feel like ice cubes and my ears are on fire. The backs of my calves feel very cold, but are warm to the touch. What’s that  all about? Some symptoms fade and are replaced by others. The daily small panic attacks have reduced in number and intensity. They have been gradually replaced by a permanently clenched jaw. I have to tell myself a hundred times a day to unclench and stop grinding. My jaw hurts.

I feel a bit silly complaining about such trivialities. Well, insomnia is certainly not trivial, so I’ll complain about that. I was taking Temazepam to catch a little sleep. When I finally got around to reading about it I discovered why that bit of sleep began to diminish as time went by. It’s a temporary fix and may end up causing more problems than it fixed, since it reduces the body’s ability to sleep naturally. Okay, so much for “better living through chemistry”.

Among my many fond memories I can relish the time when I could get a solid eight hours of peaceful slumber.

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19 Responses to “Sea Squirts – Living On the Edge”

  1. kristy Says:

    The problem with your pictures, is that they make me want to chuck all the travel plans and plan a trip to PNG to dive!

    I suppose your symptoms are further proof of the power of the mind over the body! Grief in the past was somewhat more civilized. You wore clothes that let people know your condition. You wailed and keened. You rent your clothes…you did things that were a physical release for your grief. Perhaps some wailing and keening out on Faded Glory, where you will not scare anyone would be good!

    I did not realize that she keeled over the day you left for Australia. I know there was a simple reason why it happened, but almost as if Faded Glory knew what was coming…

    Continued prayers for you and your family

  2. Lorraine Collins Says:

    I can certainly sympathasise with the insomnia lark. I am still suffering terribly from it too. I look forward to discussuing Temazapam with you as I too use it for relief, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to be working. I have tried herbal remedies too, but they don’t seem to be doing much either. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!

  3. Jay Griffin Says:

    I’m sure you get plenty of sunshine, but some melatonin tablets should help with a more natural kind of sleep if your vitamin shoppes/pharmacies have it.

  4. fran Says:

    hi Jan…….i know one of my native american (first nation)teachers was a big supporter of Valerian root..
    it comes in teas or tinctures and is very soothing to the nervous system…helps calm one ..for what its worth..
    sending aloha and good vibes xo hugs woof too.

  5. Rich Jones Says:

    Hi all,

    It was a really, really clear dive on Saturday so the lack of camera was a minor sadness. But the views were worth gold. Insomnia is a normal reaction to stress and grief. It is also very frustrating. Come and join us for the early morning walks and runs and Friday yoga with the gals. See you later, MD, two new divers arrived in town today!

  6. MadDog Says:

    Nice to see you here, Rich. Next time I’ll give my camera the warm-up treatment before I put it in the housing. I am going to have to do something about excercise. The morning walk in unliely because of the inconvenience of driving into town, but I may do the Yoga. I’ll have to get up and take a walk to the airport in the mornings. I hope some excercise will help with the insomnia.

  7. MadDog Says:

    Thanks for the information, Fran. I’ll Google it. There is little chance I could get it here, though. Thanks for the good vibes.

  8. MadDog Says:

    Jay, I have been reading about melatonin and it seems that it might help. I’ll check at the chemist to see if they have any. Thanks.

  9. MadDog Says:

    Lorraine, I have been thinking much of your sleep problems which we talked about in Cairns and I am now able to fully sympathise with your situation. It is torture. When I read about Temazepam I realised why it doesn’t seem to work after a while. It is actually pretty nasty stuff. It’s intended only for temporary use. Some studies showed that it became significantly less effective after only one or two week’s use nightly. One 10mg tab still knocks me out, but I’m awake again in two hours and can’t go back to sleep. I also look forward to your visit. We have a lot to talk about.

  10. MadDog Says:

    Kristy, a lot of people have that problem with my images. Unfortunately, there are few places which are more expensive to get to, thanks to a horribly inefficient and overpriced national air carrier which has a virtual monopoly over domestic travel.

    Sometimes I do think that I need to just let go and wail. What holds me back is that I don’t know if I could stop once I got started. The sinking of Faded Glory was (I keep telling myslef) simply one of those bizarre coincidences which we could all do without. Thanks for praying and thinking of me.

  11. kristy Says:

    I think that the body does a good job of stopping you once you start. The expression ‘all cried out’ is a good one. Lots of other great stress reliever ideas from your friends. Glad you are well taken care of!
    A little inconvenient travel is not an overwhelming obstacle. My husband spent a couple of months there in 1980…I am sure he can figure out how to get there again!!
    I have managed to get myself to a few remote places….Antarctica last Dec was the remotest so far!

  12. ZydecoDoug Says:

    I’m just glad to see/read that you’re back in the water, Jan. I know it’s not the first time back, but it’s still great, especially with Faded Glory. Winter’s coming here in a couple of months, summer’s coming there. Went on a short dive off Fort Lauderdale two weeks ago, and thought about you. I lived in South Florida for a bunch of years before moving up the coast to northeast Florida in 2003. Miss the reefs and the tropical Gulf Stream down there; don’t miss the over-population of non-Floridians who could seemingly care less about the wonderful natural resources. New Yawkers don’t swim!

  13. L. Witham Says:

    I love the 2nd photo looking out to the beautiful blue! My suggestion for sleep is a glass of warm milk with a little vanilla, but do that after a really exhausting game of squash with a friend – don’t you think that might give you a good night’s sleep?

  14. Rick Loftus, M.D. Says:

    Hi Jan. Thank you for the beautiful photos and information on tunicates.
    Sorry to hear about the insomnia; stress and feeling depressed often go along with that and sometimes it’s hard to know whether the sleep troubles drive poor mood or vice versa. Temazepam, while inexpensive, indeed is only a temporary fix and your body builds up a tolerance for it. Diphenhydramine is also inexpensive and can help; it’s similar to the sleep ingredient used in products like Unisom and Tylenol PM. Valerian’s fine but can be toxic if used too much or in too high doses, so be aware of that and follow labels. Kava is likewise. Acupuncture or hypnotherapy are techniques that are drug-free and might also help if you can find sources for them. Keep active, exercise and spend time with friends. It takes time to heal, so accepting that can also help. Keeping you in my thoughts. -Rick

  15. Bill Spinks Says:

    Jan,
    What strikes me most about your marriage to Eunie is how young you were when you got married. Unless you were both extraordinarily mature, you were still “growing up” for several years from your wedding day forward. No doubt, you became “one flesh” in that process, and now half of you is gone.

    I have actually Googled, “Is there a proper way to grieve?” …and there is no right answer. I pray you’ll find a way to get through it, as gently as possible, but I suspect putting yourself in “sackcloth and ashes” and rending, and wailing may be the most effective way to get through the worst of the pain….I think you will cry yourself out, at least for a time. I have read about this in fictional accounts…it was always a man grieving the loss of his mate.

    I pray for your healing…I am so sorry you must endure it. You wrote about the love that Eunie radiated…you know she would want you to find peace, and I truly hope it comes.

  16. MadDog Says:

    Doug, it’s good to hear from you. The dive on the first weekend after I got back was very shaky. I shouldn’t have been diving. I broke my own rule – Never dive unless you are in perfect condition, physically and mentally. Each dive since then has been better.

    We used to spend two weeks at the end of every summer in a little motel at Ormond Beach. I remember so many good times there. I wonder what you saw at Ft. Lauderdale? I can’ teven imagine what it would be like.

  17. MadDog Says:

    Lori, that blue is even more striking through the naked eye. I had heard that warm milk contains something that helps you sleep. I guess that makes some kind of weird sense, eh? I will give it a try. Knees are shot, so squash it out. I never was any good at it anyway.

  18. MadDog Says:

    Hi Rick. It’s nice to see you here. I know what you mean about determining what is cause and what is effect. Is lack of sleep a major contributor to my depression? Or, is depression causing me to lose sleep? I can see it both ways and I think that each contributes to the severity of the other. Temazepam was a bummer. I’m going to leave it alone. If I had read about it before I took it nightly for a month, I’d probably be better ff now. I’m going to check out the others which you mentioned. Kava is of particular interest, since I can get that here for practically nothing. Hypnotherapy also sounds amusing, but hypnotists are virtually unknown here. I know that I need to get more excercise. I’m checking out the gym at Madang Lodge. Thanks for the tips, Rick.

  19. MadDog Says:

    Another meaty comment, Bill. You certainly put a lot of thought into them.

    I was nineteen when I met Eunie and she was eighteen. I was amazed that she liked me. That was September, 1962. We married in June, 1964. I wouldn’t say that we were exceptionally mature, however we were crazy-in-love and remained that way for forty-six years. It was the love and respect for each other that got us through the rough times, of which there were quite a few. As time passed, we became joined at the brain, so to speak. That kind of relationship for that length of time creates an incredible amount of vulnerability to extreme grief if one partner is removed from the scene.

    I have read qhite a bit about grief lately. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m doing okay, but I have a long way to go. I haven’t gotten to the wailing and teeth gnashing yet, but I know that I will. My plan is to set aside a good time for it among friends who can care for me until the worst of it is over. I know that I can’t put it off too long. If I don’t do it properly and soon, it will come back to bite me.

    I believe that God will give me peace again and some measure of satisfaction and joy in life. Eunie will always be with me, no matter what.