One Animal or a Super-Organism? By Brian Simpson

     When the system finally goes totally mad and starts prosecuting non-humans for violating social distancing (e.g. bees), will this creature discussed below get one fine, or many? These are the sorts of questions I contemplate here in social isolation, while slowly going mad:

“Underwater explorers found a 150-foot-long (45 meters) siphonophore — a translucent, stringy creature that, like coral, is made up of smaller critters — living in a submarine canyon off the coast of Australia. It's "seemingly the largest animal ever discovered," they said. Every individual siphonophore is made up of many little "zooids," which each live lives that are more similar to animals we're used to talking about, albeit always connected to the larger colony. Zooids are born asexually, and each one performs a function for the siphonophore's larger body, according to a research article published in the journal Developmental Dynamics in 2005. Linked together in long chains, the colonies were already known to reach lengths of up to 130 feet (40 m) according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium — though each siphonophore is only about as thick as a broomstick. The new, record-setting siphonophore was one of several discoveries made by a team aboard the research vessel.

     Falkor while exploring deep-sea canyons near Australia's Ningaloo Coast

“Siphonophores are free‐swimming colonial hydrozoans (Cnidaria) composed of asexually produced multicellular zooids. These zooids, which are homologous to solitary animals, are functionally specialized and arranged in complex species‐specific patterns. The coloniality of siphonophores provides an opportunity to study the major transitions in evolution that give rise to new levels of biological organization, but siphonophores are poorly known because they are fragile and live in the open ocean. The organization and development of the deep‐sea siphonophore Bargmannia elongata is described here using specimens collected with a remotely operated underwater vehicle. Each bud gives rise to a precise, directionally asymmetric sequence of zooids through a stereotypical series of subdivisions, rather than to a single zooid as in most other hydrozoans. This initial description of development in a deep‐sea siphonophore provides an example of how precise colony‐level organization can arise, and illustrates that the morphological complexity of cnidarians is greater than is often assumed.”

     Isn’t Australia filled with all sorts of weird and wonderous creatures … the deadliest though are not the desert snakes, but those serpents that slither their way through Parliament House Canberra. But is comparing pollies to serpents from hell, an offence against social distancing? Apart from working on the coronavirus issue, I pass my time exploring the wonders of biology, God’s Earth, and having the occasional light Corona beer:

     What! No Corona beer? If beer is not essential, what is?



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Wednesday, 24 July 2024

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