Yes, that’s a bonnethead shark (Sphyrna tiburo) … and yes, that’s the Detroit River.
For most of yesterday, I was at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) and its associated labs to speak with faculty and students in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Many thanks to Robert Woollacott, Jonathan Losos, Gonzalo Giribet, and Adam Baldinger for their time and interest. I will be looking forward to joining their community as part of the Class of 2013!
Before finding the right building, I wandered through the MCZ and a few exhibits of the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice the unidentified swimming objects (USOs) gracing two of the jars.
These shrimp were in a glass case highlighting Louis Agassiz’s explorations in Brazil. “Caridea” they are — to be more specific, they represent at least one (probably multiple) species of Palaemonid shrimp in the genus Macrobrachium.
While visiting the O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History earlier today, I was surprised to encounter some familiar faces (or should I say anterior cephalothoraxes?).
The freshwater pond display — typically home to a range of aquatic beetles, Odonate larvae (dragonfly and damselfly nymphs), and assorted Hemiptera (water boatmen, backswimmers, water striders, and Belostomatid water bugs) — instead housed just a handful of Hydrophilid beetles alongside a dozen-odd freshwater prawns (most likely Macrobrachium lanchesteri).
M. lanchesteri gathering loose detritus from the substrate with its second pereiopods.
The Intel (formerly Westinghouse) Science Talent Search, “America’s oldest and most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors,” has set young scientists’ hearts a-racing since 1942. With over half a million dollars in awards available to the forty national finalists, it’s no surprise that the 2009 STS saw over 1600 entrants … among them yours truly.
Containing 20% of the world’s freshwater, reaching a depth of over 1600 meters, and having endured for 28 million years, Lake Baikal is the deepest, most voluminous, and most ancient of all freshwater lakes (Mats, 1992; Logatchev, 1993). Situated north of Russia’s Mongolian border, the “Blue Eye of Siberia” is not wanting for motes; Baikal’s species assemblages include reefs of green, branching sponges, a landlocked seal (the nerpa, Pusa sibirica), and spectacular adaptive radiations of cottoid sculpins and gammaroid amphipods. I could go on (and, in later posts, will), but let it suffice to say that the bed and waters of this lake are surreal beyond imagination.
For those of you following the Gregorian calendar, please accept my belated welcome to 2009!
As someone interested in the evolutionary history of river prawns of the genus Macrobrachium, a crustacean taxon poorly reported from the fossil record despite a global distribution and reasonable antiquity (probably late Oligocene to early Miocene: Murphy & Austin, 2005), I know how frustrating an bad paleontological record can be. Given the large size, wide range, and heavily calcified claws of the American M. carcinus (pictured in the title bar of this blog), I’ve often wondered why it’s never been documented — so far as I could tell — in fossil or subfossil deposits. Middens might be a good place to search for more recent material (Losey et al., 2004), which could perhaps lend insight into historic prawn abundance and shifting patterns of exploitation.
It was with great interest, then, that I read “New Cretaceous and Cenozoic Decapoda (Crustacea: Thalassinidea, Brachyura) from Puerto Rico, United States Territory” (Schweitzer et al., 2008), a paper from the Bulletin of the Mizunami Fossil Museum. Although the article is also notable for having the first records of [edit:] Cretaceous decapods from the island, I was most intrigued by its treatment of Pleistocene material — another novelty for Puerto Rico:
A Red Lobster diner in Salt Lake City: Not a home-grown industry, I’m afraid.
In the truly excellent Tinkering with Eden: A Natural History of Exotics in America (pp. 107-108), Kim Todd writes:
With the transcontinental railroad cabling one coast to the other in 1869, and shipping methods improving all the time, fish could be carried farther and faster than before. Ponds and lakes, rather than being viewed as complex ecosystems, were treated as outdoor aquariums waiting to be filled. Once walled in by the boundaries of their pools or watersheds, now eastern fish traveled west, western fish journeyed east, English fish came to the United States, American fish swam through streams in Australia. Leather carp were whisked from Washington, D.C., to Scotland; Lake Michigan whitefish found themselves in New Zealand. German carp settled in Alabama, while Hawaiian mullet traveled to the mainland. Between 1874 and 1880 the Fish Commission transported more than four million California salmon to foreign countries, including Canada, England, France, Holland, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and the Sandwich Islands.
Just a passing observation about some species from the family Atyidae (freshwater “basket-handed” shrimps). The first shrimp is Caridina serratirostris (Japan: photo from this aquarium exhibit), the second Potimirim sp. (Puerto Rico: collected by yours truly), the third Atyopsis moluccensis (an aquarium-trade specimen from somewhere in southeast Asia), and the fourth Atya scabra (Panama). Notice anything?
First, a small aside: the regional finals of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology went well. Though the judges ultimately opted for a different individual project (James Meixong’s Inhibition of Bax/Bak activation by mitochondrial fusion: a novel mechanism to block programmed cell death), the private Q&A, poster session, and PowerPoint went very smoothly. My presentation, I gather, was eye-opening for many audience members, and it was great to have gone this far.
Shortly before I left for Georgia, I happened on an article by the BBC, Shark-cam captures ocean motion (Nov. 17). A team of researchers headed by Dr. Mike Meekan (Australian Institute of Marine Science), the BBC reports, struck “scientific gold” by collecting fecal material from a whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the largest fish in the sea. This act, what’s more, was caught on film and will see inclusion in a BBC Natural World documentary, Whale Shark. Unimpressed? Consider this: