Posts having to do with the site
Greetings from Bonaire. Hoped to do some live blogging, but the new computer is down. Many exciting things to see here, as always, and we have some wonderful new photos of E.crispata to share when we can upload them.
Meantime, here is one of the new E. clarki that arrived in Box of Slugs 1.0 last week. Will bring real camera back to office next week for better photos.
For those who have an interest in keeping their own slugs, the Slugkeeping FAQ page is now live.
Happy Friday Everyone!
It has been an action-packed week here among the slugs.
Most importantly, at least if you live in the Box of Slugs, is the arrival of yet another large quantity of Bryopsis from Justin’s big ol’ tank. I only brought half of the mass he siphoned from the 500 gallon tank, and only added about 1/3 of that to the Box. The rest is sitting in small tanks, testing whether the algae are being destroyed by the slugs or simply dying from either being ripped from its moorings or starving for nutrients. As this guy is demonstrating, it is a very welcome addition.
The eggs have not hatched, but a cursory glance suggests that the embryos are developing. Will we see veligers and/or baby slugs next week?
The site continues to develop, and links are beginning to connect to useful information. There are now pages for Biological Control, Natural History, Horizontal Transfer of Genes and there are rudiments of an entry for Elysia grandifolia. Inch by inch.
In case one mass was not enough, someone laid a second mass on the same plant between last night and this morning.
In other news, the first pass through the collection of papers is complete. As a result, pages have been added for Natural Products and Behavior& Neurobiology, and some of the species pages have been fleshed out a little more.
If this is a blog, why no blogging? You readers (or reader, although even that may be a bit optimistic) must be asking why I am not constantly updating the blog with new and exciting thoughts and findings from the world of solar slugs. I can almost feel you chanting “We want slug news!”
The answer is simple. I am plugging away behind the scenes for the most part. I would like a well-curated collection of literature to be the core of this site, so I have been busily reading, categorizing, and tracking down open-source PDFs.
[rant on]One sticking point has been that many journals are keeping their papers, even old ones behind paywalls.
I HATE PAYWALLS.
I have nothing against publishers trying to make money. They have to. But many journals make their papers free a year or so after initial publication, which seems perfectly fair to me. There is also PubMed Central, to which I was required to submit my manuscripts back in the days when I was a government scientist. Although from my lofty perch at the University, I can get hold of anything I want, I would very much like for my reader(s) to find all available Elysia-related publications right here.[\rant off]
So, please be patient. We are in the middle of a busy term, and there is still much work to be done to get the site tarted-up. Meantime, here is a photo of a slug in the classic “I love Bryopsis” pose. Head tucked into the food, parapodia extended, this is a happy little kleptoplatic beasty.
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.
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.
The Solar Sea Slug Blog is up and running. Ultimately, it will be a place for me to organize my thoughts regarding my interests and research. For the moment, everything is under construction.