A lush, rhizomatous seagrass meadow in the Mediterranean. Creative Commons Arnaud-Haond et al. 2012, PLoS One. Click image for link. In the world of gigantic plant and fungus clones, there is no lack of contenders for the title Oldest, Heaviest, and Most Ginormous.
Light, sweet, orange goo crude. Last fall the small Alaskan coastal village of Kivalina was inundated by a mysterious orange "goo"(click for photo). Locals and others suspected a toxic algal bloom (see here for image), or perhaps some sort of chemical release, or millions of microscopic "crustacean eggs".Yet just a month later the mystery substance was identified as none other than a plant-parasitic fungus called a rust -- completely harmless to humans and aquatic life, and probably not bad plankton food.
On land, snails and slugs -- the Gastropods -- are confined to terrestrial prison, but in the ocean, they are free to shed their shells and fly. These are the sea angels, the sea butterflies, and the sea elephants -- and probably quite a few more I'm not aware of.For instance, this slinky and mysterious creature is a heteropod ("different foot"), or sea elephant: It's called a sea elephant because of that sausage-esque proboscis it holds aloft.
When I was in North Carolina last month for the meet-and-greet-and-learn-exhausto-freneti-thon of ScienceOnline 2012, I procured for myself a sampling kit for a citizen science project being conducted by the lab of Rob Dunn, Sci Am Guest Blogger and author of the wonderful book The Wild Life of our Bodies.He's doing a new study called "The Wild Life of Our Homes", and for the low, low price of nothing*, I got a sampling kit with two neato dual-pronged sterile Q-tips, instructions, a questionnaire about the characteristics of my pad, and a mailing address to send it back to.
The slinky rods of Legionalla pneumophila. If you didn't know better, you might assume these were extruded by a Play-Doh Fun Factory. CDC Public Health Image Library Image #11151.
Ernst Haeckel around Christmas 1860, when he was 26, the year after he returned from Italy. Ernst Haeckel had spent an unhappy year practicing medicine when his parents finally consented to pay for a year of scientific study and travel in Italy.
Purple packages of pain: false colored (no, they're not purple in real life) transmission electron micrograph of human norovirus. CDC/Charles D. Humphrey.
Riftia pachyptila, the weird, iconic giant of hydrothermal vents. Creative Commons Sabine Gollner et al.; click image for link and license. In 1977, scientists and the world were shocked to discover the first deep-sea hydrothermal vent community at the Galapagos Rift in the eastern Pacific (see a great story on this at NPR here).
If you live in the upper ocean, it pays to be transparent to avoid the gaze of Things Bigger and Hungrier Than You, since sunlight will pass right through.
When I was in Florida a few weeks ago, I visited the Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (highly, HIGHLY recommended should you be in southwest Florida), which features a two and a quarter mile boardwalk through old-growth cypress swamp.
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