How strange to call this planet 'Earth' when quite clearly it is ocean. Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Real, live, squirming dogwhelk proboscides

This time in the lab I found several dogwhelks eating a mussel they had killed just a day or two ago. Since the mussel was gaped open, you can see the dogwhelks' proboscises (or proboscides, which apparently is also the plural of proboscis) nosing around for mussel tissue. There's a point in the video where you can see all three proboscides together. The video is mostly at 20 x speed, but at the end I put in some 1 x speed so you can see how fast they actually move.

Check it out! The proboscis action is in the bottom right corner of the video. Each proboscis is a beige trunk-looking thing with a pink tip. Look for them moving inside the open mussel. The GoPro is not exactly in focus, but you can still see each proboscis fairly well.

I am starting to realize that perhaps the best way to get a dogwhelk to feed is to make it jealous; once one dogwhelk is drilling, others tend to join it. There was another healthy mussel in the tank with these dogwhelks and they ignored it and all fought over the same meal! How strange. Granted the other healthy mussel was glued to a hydrophone, but I have no reason to believe that would deter the snails.

Speaking of hydrophones, mine has been picking up lots of really loud static. I have checked the connections and moved things around and nothing seems to make it better or worse. It will randomly go quiet sometimes, but today it was very static-y for hours. If you have any recording experience and think you can help out, please let me know! The only thing I can think of now is maybe being in seawater continuously for several days is having a negative effect on it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Interesting dogwhelk behavior in lab

The other day I was working with dogwhelks in the lab and I noticed one of them was stuck hanging from the top of the cage by a byssal thread. Apparently, a mussel had attached a thread to it and when I turned the cage on its side, the dogwhelk was dangling by it. The poor thing was clearly trying to grab something to get unstuck, but there wasn't much for it to hold onto. I wanted to see if it could get itself out of its unfortunate situation, so I set up my GoPro and started filming!

I soon noticed another dogwhelk crawling up the side of the tank and heading directly toward the top where the dangling dogwhelk was attached. It then proceeded to push on the threads, causing the dangling whelk to bounce! Was this dogwhelk trying to free the dangling one? Here is the 8x speed footage!

I waited a long time for the scene to progress, but the helper dogwhelk didn't break the byssal thread and eventually crawled away. The dangling one wasn't able to grab anything on its own, so I pushed it over to the side of the tank where it held onto the wall, started crawling, and eventually broke the thread and freed itself. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

My first time recording drilling?

In my continued effort to record dogwhelk rasping, I think I finally got a dogwhelk to drill a mussel glued to my hydrophone! Previously, the dogwhelks drilled all the other mussels in the tank, but not the only mussel that we wanted them to drill.

We've captured this process using time-lapse photography, and here are a couple pictures: one with the lights on during the daytime and one with them off and a red light on at night.

Here's what you're seeing: The cord is connected to the hydrophone, which is a black puck-like object. The hydrophone is on top of a black mussel, and the dogwhelk is the grey-white thing on the mussel. This is easier to see in the not-red photo. There is also a smaller mussel just to the right of the larger mussel with the dogwhelk on it. The smaller mussel is only there because it was attached to the large one and I didn't want to disturb it by pulling it apart.  Finally, there is a thermometer in there with them, and the tank itself is in a cooler.

We have yet to go through the audio files to see what we can hear, but at least this time we know the snail was drilling in a quiet room, so the odds are in our favor to hear some rasps!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dogwhelk rasping

My colleague Cory has been helping me try to record the rasping sounds of dogwhelks in the lab so we can tell when they are feeding and when they are just sitting still on a mussel. He's been working on figuring out all the hard- and software so far, and we are getting close! It turns out a small group of researchers at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA is also developing a way to do this! And they shared one of their recordings online!

Ever wondered what dogwhelk drilling sounds like? Wonder no more.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

More November cage sampling

Here are more photos of my field work last week.

We have to take all the lids off every time we go out. 

On clear days we get a visit from these shorebirds! They blend in very well; how many can you see? 

Here is another borehole. 

Four painted snails in one shot! The orange one might be eating that large mussel.
These dogwhelks are from Lompoc, a site near Point Conception.

What is this arthropod-like creature squirming in the mussel matrix?

Monday, November 20, 2017

WSN conference poster

Last weekend I attended the Western Society of Naturalists annual meeting in Pasadena, California. I presented a poster about my ocean acidification study that tested the feeding behavior of drilling dogwhelks. It was a really fun weekend!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Octopus on mussel bed

We found this little dude crawling around the mussels beds last week.

Check out this article on their cool eyes!: