Saturday, January 28, 2006

If only more courses could be this way

The diversity, complexity, and beauty of the spineless is often underestimated. Even for an up-and-coming biologist such as myself, it's easy to forget those critters that outnumber us vertebrates by many, many orders of magnitude. They're crawling under rocks to escape our gaze, blending into the leaves and holding ever so still, or else they're just too small to even get noticed.

So, I want to have a post here to highlight just a sampling of some of the wonderful spineless animals that we've been dredging up and harassing here in the Swedish west coast.

For starters, this is Klubban, the marine biological research station owned and operated by Uppsala University.

So far, we've been treated to beautiful days like this every day. So, we headed out into Gullmarn Fjord aboard the station's boat, Belone. Contrary to what a cursory knowledge of Scandinavia geography might make you expect, Sweden has very few true fjords. Where Klubban is located represents one of the true fjords in Sweden.

We dragged dredges along the shallower, rockier bottom near the mouth of the fjord and collected what you see below.

The mouth of the fjord is quite rocky and dominated by bivalves echinoderms, crustaceans, and large gastropods that are the most obvious.

A sunstar, an echinoderm who breaks the pentaradial mold:

Our closer cousin, the tunicates:

And a crab for the arthropod fans:

But don't let that fool you, crawling all over and between those rocks are thousands of tiny crustaceans and some of rather striking polychaete worms. I'll try to get pics of these up next week. Moreover, we pulled some mud from the bottom of the deeper parts of the fjord and those carry some of their own 'cryptic' fauna.

These are all too small to photograph on the spot, so I'll try to get some photographs under the microscope for next week.

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