Saturday, September 25, 2010

Touch Tank

A long time ago, I wanted to be a marine biologist.  That was my great love and ambition, right on up until the career day in High School junior year.  Then I learned that 1. there are no jobs that pay decent enough and 2. I could no longer ignore my math teacher when they claimed that I would need math in my future.  So I retained all the information I had already studied and switched to English.  The result is that I'm very irritating to the volunteers who run the touch tank at various aquariums.
On the left is a whelk.  A large marine snail that is carnivorous and born with its shell.  Their egg cases commonly wash up on the beach and are referred to as mermaid's necklaces.
On the right is a spider crab.  Named for its spider-like appearance.  Interesting fact: unlike other crabs, spider crabs walk forward not sideways.  Though they are capable of side way movement.

This is a sea star, no longer called a sea fish as it's clearly not a fish.  Some sea stars eat by flopping their stomach into an oyster to begin digesting it (this is the simplified way of describing it).  They can be a real nuisance so fisherman sometimes chop them up when they catch them.  Unfortunately, if the chopped up pieces contain portions of the center piece of the sea star, the fisherman has now made several MORE sea stars instead of killing one.  They can regenerate body parts.

 My favorite creature in the touch tank is the horseshoe crab who got its name from the shape of its body.  When I was a kid I always found horseshoe crabs in Deltaville.  Sometimes they were alive and sometimes they weren't.  And sometimes the ones who were dead made the trip home to Baltimore to became my show and tell.  They usually smelled very bad.  Like dead fish.  There were a few years when we would be in Deltaville around the same time the horseshoe crabs were mating and we would find hundreds of them along the beach.  Hundreds.  When was the last time anyone saw hundreds of horseshoe crabs? Unfortunately they have been severely over fished because they make good eel bait.  And eels are a delicacy in some countries.  Personally I think the eels should be the ones cut into bait, just sayin'.
So, interesting facts I like to annoy the volunteers with: they have blue blood that is copper based instead of iron based, the blood is used in the medical profession to test the purity of drugs and parts of the crab are also used as clotting agents, females are larger than males (probably because they do most of the work much like the human species), males have "boxing glove" type claws on their first set of legs, females don't (mostly because females are lovers not fighters) , the tail looks menacing but is simply used to turn the horseshoe crab over if it gets stuck on its back.

You can imagine the irritation of the volunteer when she hears me telling the Brat Child all about these creatures.  Especially when the Brat Child turns and says: "You realldy smart, mom, reallldy!"


  1. Oh, Mm, you realldy are very smart. You should move back to D'Ville and work for VIMS or something.

    You have a goom point about the eels, I feel the same way. FNasty creatures - and we too have noticed a huge, HUGE decline in the horseshoe crabs, as in, are there any left?

    I hope you gave that boy a chockit shake for his compliments. I mean realldy, that's the least you could do.

  2. That was supposed to say "Mom" not "Mm". Just so you know.

  3. I figured it was either mom or mothman... I haven't seen a horseshoe crab dead or alive in a few years which is very sad. We actually did stop for chocit shakes on the way home... I would love to work for VIMS and of course live in D'ville

  4. LOL I know, I need to just do it. I'll get there eventually.