I went fossil hunting down at the Warren (in Folkestone, Kent, UK) on Thursday last week. These are some of my favourite finds from the trip (I washed them up at home).
Fossil hunting is great fun. If you live in the UK, and fancy giving it a shot, then there are some really handy websites that you should check out. https://ukfossils.co.uk/ and http://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/fossil-locations-of-great-britain/
If you don't live in the UK but still want to give it a go then I would recommend looking for local fossil hunting clubs, societies and websites. Failing that you should try to look for areas where sedimentary rocks are being eroded. For instance, cliffs by the sea, rivers, old quarries, etc.
Just make sure you don't trespass or go anywhere too dangerous. For instance, if you are fossil hunting under cliffs at the beach, don't get to close to the cliffs (falling debris and cliffs collapsing) and plan around the tides (you don't want to get cut off).
timelapse of an eastern whitelip snail (Neohelix albolabris) vigorously consuming shroom
many of the large land snails with the ‘classic’ snail appearance that people see in north america are introduced garden dwelling species, but N. albolabris is a native species that’s most at home deep in moist forests where it feeds mainly on fungi.
Of the four species of blue ringed octopi native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, the greater blue ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) is considered to be the most deadly. Blue ringed octopi have two different types of venom: a paralytic which they use on prey, such as crustaceans and injured fish, and a toxin called tetrodotoxin which is produced by symbiotic bacteria in their salivary glands and which can also be found in pufferfish. Because of their bright coloration and toxicity, H. lunulata is mostly left alone by predators, although they are occasionally eaten by eels, birds, and larger fish. The element of surprise is crucial for these predators, as only a small amount of venom, about 2mg, is required for lethal effects and is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide. There is no known antidote.
Fortunately, instances of human death via blue ringed octopi encounters are rare. Greater blue ringed octopi, like other members of its group, spend their time in coral reefs or on the sandy bottoms of shallow waters. They are shy and often hide in crevices or abandoned mollusk shells, and will only flash their bright blue rings when threatened. Most instances of human fatalities are the result of picking up or otherwise antagonising blue ringed octopi, which can be avoided if careful observers pay attention to the octopi’s behavior and keep their distance.
The greater blue ringed octopus’ characteristic blue rings are usually faint or completely invisible, and only come out when an individual feels threatened. Like many species of octopi, H. lunulata has pigment cells called chromatophores in its skin which allows it to display a variety of patterns and colors, including dark brown, purple, and white. Some scientists believe these color changes are also used as a form of communication between individuals. However, H. lunulata is mostly solitary and will defend its territory against other individuals. They are immune to their own venom and do not produce ink, so fights often consist of using their tentacles to grab onto their opponent and bite them with their beaks. Despite their fearsome reputation and grandiose name, the greater blue ringed octopus is only about 20 cm long and weighs at maximum 100 g.
Male H. lunulata are indistinguishable from females, including to each other, and so during the mating season, which varies by location, males will attempt to breed with other females as well as males. Mating is initiated by extending a tentacle called a hectocotylus and caresses the other individual. If receptive, the male will then insert the hectocotylus under the female’s mantle where he deposites sacs of sperm called spermatophores. The female uses this deposit to fertilize up to 100 eggs, which she keeps tucked under her arms for the month they take to develop and hatch. Afterwards the female will die, and the newly hatched planktonic larvae settle on the ocean floor for an additional 50 days while they continue to mature. Juveniles become sexually mature after only four months and are completely ready to breed by the end of their first year.
Conservation status: the greater blue ringed octopus is not listed by the IUCN and currently is not considered endangered. Despite its toxicity, it is sometimes harvested as an aphrodisiac and as a neuron-inhibitor, although these collections are rare and specimens are incredibly expensive. Other threats include habitat destruction, and increased temperatures and oxidation of their native waters.
@ectoparasitoid submitted: figured id show off some of my beloved garden snails since the one in the second pic (spageddy) turned THREE this year which is an insane milestone considering he was thought to be at the end of his life when i rescued him (first pic is ck and torture enjoying a yam slice together)
Snail friends!! Bet they’re living their best lives getting to snack on delicious yams and be admired every day
From our stacks: Illustration "Mollusks. 1. Octopus. 2. Cuttle fish. 3. Paper Nautilus." from Elementary Geography. Appletons' American Standard Geographies. New York, Boston, and Chicago: D. Appleton and Company, 1880.
New Species of Extinct Vampire-Squid-Like Cephalopod
New research led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and Yale shows that the oldest ancestors of the group of animals that includes octopuses and vampire squids had not eight but 10 arms. The study, which describes a new species of vampyropod based on a 328-million-year-old fossil that had not been previously described, pushes back the age of the group by nearly 82 million years. The details are published today in the journal Nature Communications.
“This is the first and only known vampyropod to possess 10 functional appendages,” said lead author Christopher Whalen, a postdoctoral researcher in the Museum’s Division of Paleontology and a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in Yale’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences.
Whalen and coauthor Neil Landman, a curator emeritus in the Museum’s Division of Paleontology, identified the fossil specimen as a completely new genus and species that dates to about 328 million years old, making it the oldest known vampyropod and extending the fossil record of the group by about 82 million years. In the new study, they also describe its 10 arms—all with preserved suckers—corroborating previous scientific arguments that the common ancestor of vampyropods had 10 arms as well.
Overview of neocoleoid interrelationships and divergence time estimates, showing the position of Syllipsimopodi bideni gen. et sp. nov.