(Un)natural History

A newly described species: Osedax mucofloris, or bone-eating snot flower*:

A new species of zombie worm has been discovered that eats the bones of dead whales.

The pink Osedax mucofloris, which means bone-eating snot flower, was discovered feeding off the carcass of a Minke whale by a joint UK-Swedish team.

The base of the flower-like worm goes into the bone, like a root system, taking nutrients and oils from it and resembles a ball of mucus, or snot. This part of the worm, which has no eyes or gut, is thought to be a defence mechanism.

During the experiment the Minke whale was placed at a depth of 125m and observed to see what would occur. First the flesh was stripped from the bones by hagfish and then the snot flowers moved in to devour the bones.

A further mystery surrounding the worm is that only females have been found, but in similar Pacific varieties the male actually lives inside the female existing only to fertilise eggs.

The findings of the team from the Swedish Tjarno Marine Laboratory and the Natural History Museum were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"The evidence presented here of a potentially global clade of bone-eating worms, hitherto unknown except from a single deep-sea region, is surprising given that whale bones have been routinely trawled up on the shelf and slope by fishermen, and in some cases examined by scientists who did not report Osedax-like worms," the study's authors, led by Adrian Glover, said.

They added: "We suggest that careful, microscopic examination of whale bones freshly recovered from the seafloor may reveal that Osedax is widespread in the oceans."

DeHavilland News, via Deep Sea News, via Botany Photo of the Day.

*More accurately, a snot-flowered bone-eater -- the "specific epithet" in taxonomic nomenclature is always adjectival, the generic name is the noun.

October 20, 2005 in Natural History | Comments (0)


Librairie Vve.P. Chaumas, Bordeaux [France] (30mm x 15mm, ca.1881)

Some new Book Trade Labels. This is as good a place as any to note that, indeed, some of these are boring. It is the principle of giving each one its due that is exciting.

October 18, 2005 | Comments (0)

Everyman, I will go with thee...

and be thy guide....

The "new" Everyman's Library in its 15th year is fast approaching 300 titles. And yet, to my knowledge, until now there has been no readily available comprehensive list. (A.Knopf, the US publisher, has at its Everyman's website all the current, American titles, but neglects some British, and titles do slip in and out of print.) So, do you know which volumes are missing from your collection? Please avail yourself of my (Nearly) Complete Serial List of Everyman's Library titles.

The Wikipedia has an Everyman's Library article which may be of interest.

October 11, 2005 | Comments (0)

John Clare's Hazel Copse: Autumn


The sun had stooped his westward clouds to win
Like weary traveller seeking for an Inn
When from the hazelly wood we glad descried
The ivied gateway by the pasture side
Long had we sought for nutts amid the shade
Where silence fled the rustle that we made
When torn by briars and brushed by sedges rank
We left the wood and on the velvet bank
Of short-swarded pasture-ground we sat us down
To shell our nutts before we reached the town
The near-hand stubble-field with mellow glower
Showed the dimmed blaze of poppys still in flower
And sweet the molehills smelt we sat upon
And now the thyme’s in bloom, but where is pleasure gone?

The Penguin John Clare: Selected Poems,
pg. 72

October 9, 2005 in Natural History | Comments (0)