Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bobtail squidding

The other evening, I joined the HIMB Education program to hunt for bobtail squid.  Bobtail squid are not actually squid at all, but cuttlefish.  One of the big differences between squid and cuttlefish are the feeding tentacles that hang out of squid's mouths all the time, while cuttlefish keep their feeding tentacles tucked inside their mouths, shooting them out when necessary. Bobtail squid are adorable cuttlefish that look like little swimming dumplings.  

It was a beautiful evening on Coconut, perfect for bobtail squidding.  They bury themselves in the sand during the day and come out at night to feed, so all we had to do was wade around in the shallows and look for little swimming dumplings. Unfortunately, after an hour and a half, we still hadn't found one. But then, one of the interns, who was snorkeling in deeper water found two of the smallest bobtail squid I have ever seen! Adorable!

The most interesting thing about bobtail squid is their ability to counter-shade with the help of bacteria called Vibrio fisceri. The bacteria live in a light organ on the underside of the bobtail squid and they fluoresce in response to the brightness of the moon.  That way, if there is a predator under the bobtail squid, it looks up and instead of seeing the shadow of an animal blocking the light from the moon, the predator sees nothing. It's like an invisibility cloak for a bobtail squid. Pretty incredible symbiotic relationship. Yay science!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Corpse Flower

A few weeks ago, the corpse flower at the botanical gardens was blooming.  I was very excited and dragged Steven along to check it out with me.  Apparently, we JUST missed it! Bummer, but we got to see a few of the different stages and I took some photos.

First of all, the corpse flower, or Amorphophallus titanum (which to me sounds like it translates to "giant misshapen penis") is so called because when it blooms it reportedly smells like rotting flesh. Delicious! The smell attracts pollinators (only a few species of which we have in Hawaii), and then the corpse flower sort of crumples in on itself, only to bloom another seven years later. In the picture on the left, you can see me standing next to the flower that just bloomed. The spadix is the large fleshy spike in the middle of the flower. It has turned brown because it just bloomed, but usually it is pale green (like the one on the right). The leafy "flower" part around the spadix is called the spathe.  When the flower blooms, the spathe open up to about 3m in circumference.

The botanical garden had a few of the corpse flowers, so they opened one up to show what it looks like inside.  The little stalks are where the pollinators wriggle around to transfer pollen they pick up as the crawl into the spathe.

 Below is a picture of the bugs that typically pollinate these plants. The Carrion Beetles are really the most useful to the plants, but since we don't have those in Hawai'i, the botanical garden does the pollinating by hand. Sounds like a fun night! Albeit a bit stinky.

 There were also a selection of lovely orchids, some of which I photographed below.

And finally, a selection of some of the seeds from the garden. I love the variety!