Monthly Archives: September 2014

Copepod Video

With no fish to eat them, and lots of detritus, the copepods have been proliferating.  Here is the view this morning.

Bryopsis GONE. Slugs frisky.

It took them about 2 1/2 weeks, but the mass of Bryopsis is gone.  The slugs consumed a lot, spending almost all of their time face down in the stuff, but some of the algae may have died due to my inability to keep NO3 and PO4 at measurable levels.  I have been adding KH2PO4 and KNO3, but the plants have been consuming it like crazy.

Here is what the tank looks like now. Rather different from a week or so ago when it was stuffed with fresh algae.



A couple of them were chasing each other.  Courtship?  Will we finally see eggs?


What killed the amphipods?

I came into the office on Sunday to find hundreds of dead amphipods in the box of slugs.  Because there is plenty of vegetable material and no predation, the amphipods had multiplied rapidly, but I was surprised at the sheer number of dead little bugs.

Dead amphipoods 9/14/14

Dead amphipoods 9/14/14

Naturally, I was anxious about the slugs, but they seemed unconcerned.  In fact, none of the other inhabitants seemed at all bothered, including the corals.

Snails?  Fine.  They have been happily grazing away on the glass and other surfaces.

Columbellid snail

Columbellid snail


Isopods?  Fine.  If anything, they seemed more bold than usual.  So, whatever it was did not affect all arthopods equally.

Isopods in slug box

Isopods in slug box


The sabellid worms that came in with the Bryopsis were also unaffected.

Small sabellid worm

Small sabellid worm

I learned later that there had been a power outage, which explains why the low-flow alarms for the fume hoods in the lab were ringing when I arrived Sunday.  Perhaps the amphipods were more sensitive to the loss of circulation in the tank than were the other invertebrates.  Maybe amphipods just don’t like big piles of Bryopsis.  We may never know.  Will the amphipod population rebound?  We’ll see.

Origin Myth, Part 1

Why does this page even exist?  It started with the guy in the picture below, a Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas).  More correctly, this story starts with the lack of them.


In 2012, I was lucky enough to be volunteering as a Visiting Scientist with Ocean Discovery Institute during their annual research/education trips to Bahia de los Angeles in Baja California.  I had traveled to Bahia de los Angeles a few times with my friend and colleague Dr Drew Talley, and had spent about a week in the summer of 2011 with the Ocean Discovery Bahia Program as a Visiting Scientist.  They are an amazing group, and I always come back from visits with them feeling energized about science and education.  In 2012, I agreed to assemble a workshop on a subject in which neurobiology intersects marine biology.  In previous years, the large Humboldt squid had been relatively plentiful, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to demonstrate for the students the electrical properties of the giant axon and the role it plays in the behavior of the squid.

After many, many hours of preparation, including purchasing a SpikerBox to serve as an amplifier, getting some help from the departmental shop in building a portable, battery-powered stimulator, talking with resident experts about recording giant axons, and trying to think of every contingency that might come up when trying to perform electrophysiology in a remote environment, I was ready to go. So, briefcase full of delicate gear in hand, I headed to San Diego and ultimately Bahia.


It was a perfect plan.  I had thought of and coordinated everything, and we were ready to catch squid.  Drew and I went out with a couple of fishermen to drop jigs and pull up feisty cephalopods.  It was a gorgeous, warm, clear evening, and the water was as smooth as glass.  We stopped at a spot near the island Cabeza de Caballo, enjoyed a group of feeding pelicans and boobies, and learned how to use the jigs to catch squid.  No luck there, so we moved.  No luck.  We very much enjoyed the dolphins below us, illuminated by the bioluminescence, but then Drew asked the Question I Should Have Asked Myself Earlier: “What if there are no squid.”  Had not planned for that one, and yet there were no squid to be had.

I woke up the next morning with about 12 hours to assemble a workshop.  I was lucky that one of the student groups was not working that morning, so we all went out to search for squid substitutes and to discuss a little invertebrate zoology.  Nothing perfect, but among our collection was a pair of Elysia diomedea, about which I knew very little at the time.  So, by late morning, I had one cockroach (a Periplaneta that had been caught in a bathroom the night before), a SpikerBox, two slugs, and a video about cephalopod camouflage from the Hanlon Lab.

In the end, I used the materials I had to introduce the students to the field of Neuroethology, the evolutionary and comparative approach to animal behavior and neural circuitry.  The organization of the workshop may have been a bit rough, but the amazing scenes in the Hanlon video and my enthusiasm for neurobiology and behavior pulled us through.

All this got me thinking.  First, if I am so excited about neurobiology and behavior in a natural context, why am I studying the actions of drugs in a reduced system?  Second, as I learned more about the biology of Elysia diomedea, I started to think that there may be some really interesting neuroethology in there somewhere.

Given that I was on the cusp of a career change, these seemed to be issues to be considered in some depth.  Stay tuned.

Here are the original stars of the show, sitting on a counter in a plastic tub.  Possibly one of the dullest videos on YouTube.

A few pounds of love


New Bryopsis!

New Bryopsis!

The Box of Slugs just got a little happier.  They ate through the last batch of Bryopsis in less than a week, so it was time to increase supply and reduce demand.  Justin, a WAMAS member with a 500 gallon tank and slight problem with Byopsis, offered a pile (read a few pounds) of algae.  It seemed like a good idea to thin the herd at the same time, so I brought over three slugs to see if they could make a dent in his Bryopsis crop (bringing the population in the office tank to 8).  Tangs, urchins and snails will not touch the stuff, but  E. clarki likes it more than anything.

The office tank is pretty full of tasty green pest algae.

170749_tankof Bryopsis

We’ll see how the little guys do in his tank.  They looked so tiny going in.  They should be happy as long as they stay away from the pumps.

162602 into Justins tank


Scientific References are Up

I managed to trudge through and format the full list of references to the point that they are usable.  Plenty of work remains to add the stragglers that have not been caught by my searches so far, and to add the links to abstracts and available open-access pdfs.

Next up, straighten up the “About” page and flesh out the current Species pages a bit more.