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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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Chasing Science at Sea

While we're on the topic, I had two rare delights on Sunday before Sam's recital (another rare and extraordinary delight). We went to Sea World so he could ride Manta and Atlantic.  Generally while he rides Manta, I go into the nearby aquarium and enjoy the fact that we have somehow learned how to maintain a reef community aquarium, an accomplishment available only to the most elaborate aquaria and research institutes only a short while ago.  But the real delight is that Octopus vulgaris was out of her lair and swimming about her aquarium.  I've been here many times and the only view I had was of the octopus stuffed into a small tube that connected to adjacent aquaria.  But here she was out and about stretching and flexing for all the world to see.

So, while Sam was riding Atlantis, I went into the nearby aquarium where normal one can see Pacific Sea Nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens) and, usually, Moon Jellies (Aurelia aurita) both incredibly beautiful and fragile--amazing animals.  Well I saw the sea nettles and took my pictures, but then turning to the moon jellies I found that they had been replaced by ctenophores--particularly this species of so called "comb-jellies"  The moon jelly sign was still up, so I don't know the specific species, but there were what seemed like hundreds (but were probably only dozens) of these delicate, graceful, beautiful creatures.

The cilia that help them move create a rainbow iridescence that is both ghostly and lovely.  One viewer compared them to the creatures one sees at the end of  The Abyss--an apt comparison for in all likelihood creatures like these were the models for creature like those.

All in all, a very, very fine day.

Note:  A little subsequent research suggests that I was looking at a species of Pleurobrachia--fairly common shallow watter ctenophores.  I recall netting them near the mouth of the York River in Virginia.

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