Circus of the Spineless #29: Making A Living

It’s tough making a living, whether you’re finding a nursery for the young’uns, molting, trying to get a mate, or avoiding ending up as someone’s dinner. Part of the fascination with the invertebrates is just how many “weird” and surprising ways there are to solve the basic problems of life. Plus, we also like them just because they’re so damn gorgeous! This batch of posts has some terrific photography.

Ants may be industrious, but by all accounts they may be easily outwitted. On Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong has the great tale of “Evolutionary arms race turns ants into babysitters for Alcon blue butterflies”, giving the story of how the larvae of the beautiful Alcon Blue butterfly are really just a bunch of slackers — these brood parasites make ants fawn over them at the expense of the ants’ own larvae. Meanwhile, GrrlScientist is Living the Scientific Life where she describes, “Berry Butts: Parasitized Black Ants Resemble Red Berries”. More weird parasitism: “an amazing example of a parasite that causes its host to resemble a luscious red berry — all so the parasite’s eggs are passed onto birds, the next step in the parasite’s life cycle.” The ants continue their march (one by one) across the Interwebs, and at his Myrmecos Blog, Alex describes how we can find “Ants from a Kilometer Up” by using Google Earth to find their mounds. (Gee, if you make it that easy, won’t the grad students waste their time doing silly things like catching up on sleep?)

So what do Superman, strippers and training wheels have to do with arthropods? That was my recent post inspired by changes in the job scene and a cricket in the tarantularium. Susannah (AKA Wanderin’ Weeta) is also watching insect changes, as she has a Lep snoozing away in crysalis, remarking that “Looks like January is Moth Month”. You can just barely make out the structures developing …

Representing the non-arthropods, Aydin Örstan has a tale about shells as well, “A friend went to Nigeria and all I got was igbin* shells”. Of course, you will have to go to Snail’s Tales to find out what “igbin” is! Like Aydin, I think I’ll pass on that particular recipe described; anything with the adjective “rubbery” sounds suspicious. Meanwhile, pascal has been doing Research at a snail’s pace and references one of Aydin’s previous posts, presenting a thought- provoking post about how past and future climate change affects the persistence of the land snail, Hendersonia occulta. Just as a reminder, life does not always come crunchy; Annotated Budak shows off some improbably technicolor polka-dot nudibranches in the “Semakau slugs” post.

So what do the guys want to do when they grow up? Ooh-la-la, here’s your “may not be suitable for work” warning — there’s a lot of “in-sex” going on. The Annotated Budak has also taken some great pictures taken “Below the tree tops”, presumably taken somewhere near Singapore. This means that these arthropods are “exotic” to me; they’re also really beautiful. “Ooh, shiny!” More beauties are over at Ben Cruachan Blog where squishing past the Spoonbills yields “Dragons and Damsels”. And yes, it’s high summer there, so “It’s busy on the billabong” where there’s even more in-sex going on among the jewel-like Odonates. Plus, there’s yet another dragonfly, and a tiny green spider with the most improbable colouring. Speaking of spiders, at Catalogue of Organisms, Christopher Taylor is also focusing upon sex (hey, what can we say, it’s a popular topic!) with “The One About Sexual Cannibalism”. Christopher forgoes the lurid prudish aspects (and thoughtfully comments about those, too) in favor of describing a species where this curious finish actually is a common occurance.

UPDATE: In the world of the not-so-sexy, Dr Jennifer Forman Orth brings up concerns about spraying regimens for the LBAM at her Invasive Species Weblog. Apparently Light Brown Apple Moth pheromones (or more probably, the carriers for such) are being disruptive to human populations.

Yum, dinner! You can hear the munching all the way over here … YC of Bird Ecology Study Group in Singapore wants to know, “Atlas moth caterpillars: food for birds?” One of the commenters to this blog post has a surprise answer!

I want to give my thanks for everyone who submitted a post for this Circus of the Spineless, and extend my apologies for the couple days’ delay on getting this episode up! Future Circuses are #30 at A D.C. Birding Blog (send your submissions by February 27, 2008) and #31 at Archaea to Zeaxanthol (send your submissions by March 30, 2008).


  1. 24 July 2014 at 20:05

    […] 29th edition of the Circus of the Spineless is now available for you to read and enjoy. This is another "too […]

  2. 19 October 2011 at 14:36

    […] Circus of the Spineless #29: Making A Living […]

  3. 8 February 2008 at 21:09

    […] Circus of the Spineless #29: Making A Living […]

  4. qw88nb88 said,

    2 February 2008 at 13:51

    You would have to ask the malacologists themselves! Query one of the blogs where snails are mentioned.

  5. Justthisguy said,

    2 February 2008 at 10:13

    What I want to know, is “eye contact” an absurd silly show-biz slang term, or do snails actually do physical eye contact?

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