I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying the diversity and evolution of whelks. This summer I was sponsored by the NSF (USA) and JSPS (Japan) to work with Dr. Seiji Hayashi at Nagoya University in Japan to collect buccinid gastropod (whelk) tissue samples and examine whelk shell collections at musems throughout Japan. Sugoi! Some of the snails that I study are pictured to the right.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Facts and Figures

Recently I was impressed by two books, The Canon by Natalie Angier and Nature: an Economic History by Gary Vermeij. The following are some facts, factoids, and simply wonderful things that I learned from them. I thought that they were amazing enough to share.

1. In the sky at night you are seeing only about 2500 of the 300 BILLION stars in our Milky Way galaxy, and there are maybe 100 BILLION other star-studded galaxies in our universe. (More information is here and here.)

2. Electron comes from the Greek word for amber, which is readily charged when rubbed with a cloth. (NOVA did a program on amber with David Attenborough discovering the history of his own piece of amber. Priceless! It is here.)

3. Thalassocnus is a genus of marine sloths from the Pliocene of Peru (5.3-1.8 million years ago). Marine sloths!

4. There used to be an North Atlantic sea mink, sort of like a Altantic Ocean kind of otter, but it was hunted to extinction.

5. Amphibians and reptiles (and their ancestors) cannot run and breathe at the same time. As the body flexes the lung on one side of the body is compressed, making breathing impossible. So these animals must do one or the other; walk/run or breathe, because they cannot do both at the same time.

6. After the Arctic Oceans and North Pacific were joined when the Bering Strait became a seaway (5.5 million years ago) marine animals began to move from the North Pacific to the North Atlantic. Today, 22% of the marine animals on the North American east coast are Pacific in origin. These animals include periwinkles, mussels, kelp, seastars, sea urchins, hermit crabs, and barnacles.

7. Campanile was a herbivorous marine snail in the Eocene (50 million years ago) that could grow to a meter long!

8. One group of caddisfly larvae (freshwater invertebrates) make protective cases for themselves that are shaped like marine snail shells!
9. Not all marine crabs are each others closest relatives. That is, the "crab form" has evolved multiple times within crustaceans. More here. And to bring the theme back to Japan, here is a fascinating story about the Japanese samurai crab.

Incidently, samurai armor included a helmet and mask that you can see below.This armor was, presumably, the inspiration for the costume of the Star Wars character, Darth Vader.{All facts have been paraphrased from their source and all emphases (e.g. ! and BOLD) and additional comments are mine}

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