Circus of the Spineless! (No. 71)

Ah, the joys of winter!  Snowy, cold weather (at least if you live somewhere other than sunny, warm Arizona like I do!).  The air is crisp, icy, and clean.  Crunchy dead leaves crackle underfoot as you walk.  Weak sunlight filters through spindly, naked tree branches in a feeble attempt to warm the earth.  Everything seems to be frozen in place and time.  And, apparently, hardly anyone has anything to say about invertebrates!  This month’s Circus is compliments of six hearty bloggers, braving the elements to bring you the latest and greatest in spineless news!


African Common White, Belenois creona. Photo by Colin Beale at

Of course, not everyone blogs in cold places.  For example, there was a fantastic migration of butterflies in Tanzania early in February.  Hundreds of white butterflies flew past the awe-struck Colin Beale each minute, and he gleefully documented the event on his blog Safari Ecology.  A man after my own heart, he decided to collect some data and invited readers to map their sightings, then posted some preliminary results!  Everyone give Mr. Beale a round of applause for taking the initiative to write about an amazing event, then turning the experience into a meaningful scientific data gathering exercise!  I for one think this is completely awesome.

Hermit crab changes its shell

Hermit crab changes its shell. Image courtesy of The BlennyWatcher Blog, Hermit crab changes its shell.

A few other intrepid bloggers from warmer climates posted about their own experiences.  Anna DeLoach of The BlennyWatcher Blog contributed an excellent story about night diving in Indonesia, hermit crabs, and the joy of new experiences.  Ever wonder what the back part of a hermit crab looks like?  Now’s your chance!  Head on over to BlennyWatcher and take a peek at some naked crabs.

Another marine story comes from Zen Faulkes of NeuroDojo who recently discovered a beach full of Portuguese men of war while collecting data.  The description of the pain these creatures inflict with a flick of their tentacles is fascinating and the alien blue color of the animals spread across the beach is just wonderful.  The post also details the trials and tribulations researchers experience in the pursuit of data.  Check it out!

Snow fly

Snow fly. Photo by Rebecca Deatsman at

And then there’s Rebecca Deatsman from Rebecca in the Woods, the one lone, brave soul who ventured out into the snow-covered north woods for her post’s information.  But oh!  Is there anything better than insects that live on the snow?  I think not!  Read about Ms. Deatman’s discovery of snow flies in her fascinating post.  You won’t regret it.

Several other bloggers kept us up to date on the news of our favorite spineless animals.  A giant amphiphod made headlines in February.  Happily, Mr. Faulkes of NeuroDojo was there to fill in some gaps in the news coverage.  While the BBC and other news outlets suggested the giant crustacean was new to science, Mr. Faulkes sets us straight: it’s likely a rare species of deepwater marine amphipod called Alicella gigantea.  However, even if the species isn’t new to science, there are still a lot of unknowns, so head on over to NeuroDojo to read more about the fascinatingly unusual “superprawn!”


Jumping spider

Ever wonder how a spider moves with its freaky unpaired leg muscles?  Many small spiders contract their leg muscles and then use hydraulic pressure to move the legs back into place because they lack the second set of muscles necessary to do so.  But do bigger spiders do the same thing?  Once again, Mr. Faulkes comes to our rescue, presenting a new paper that suggests that jumping spiders do things a little differently.  Check it out.

Did you hear about the flying squid?  No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke, and boy does Danna Staaf have the story for you!  Some squid species launch themselves out of the water and “fly” occasionally rather than swimming constantly.  Want to know why?  Over on Squid a Day, you’ll learn more about this fascinating behavior, and get to see some of the data from the Ocean Sciences meeting that prompted the recent media frenzy.

You know how creatures around deep-sea vents tend to do crazy weird things?  In another fascinating post over at NeuroDojo, you’ll learn about the Pompeii worm, a denizen of deep-sea vents that supposedly* holds the record for the animal able to withstand the highest temperature.  Head on over to NeuroDojo for a glimpse into the lives of these bizarre worms and how they are able to survive those super hot temperatures.

(*Editorial comment: I disagree with the researchers’ statement about this being the most heat tolerant animal!  Hello?  Tardigrades?  You can BOIL those little guys without harming them, AND they can survive temps close to absolute zero!  I’m sorry, but Pompeii worms don’t hold a flaming hot candle to tardigrades in the heat tolerance category.)

Dicosmoecus gilvipes

Dicosmoecus gilvipes larva. Redrawn from Limm and Power 2011.

My own contribution to science news featured a paper demonstrating how one species of caddisfly, a funky little aquatic insect that builds cases and drags them around, uses Douglas fir needles to help keep the bugs upright in fast flowing water.  Caddisflies are amazing insects.  I think everyone should know at least a few things about them, so I hope you’ll check it out!

And finally, I’ll end this month’s Circus with a fabulous music video, compliments of Deep Sea News.  Thanks for bringing this spineless gem to our attention!

COTS survives because people volunteer to act as hosts.  Next month the Circus is headed over to Deep Sea News, so look for more great spinelessness there in early April!  Interested in hosting yourself?  You can find information at the Circus hub.  Volunteer and help spread the joy of invertebrates to others!  (You know you want to!)  After all, even the spineless need love.


For my regular blog readers who have NO idea what this is, the Circus of the Spineless is a blog carnival, a monthly collection of posts written by bloggers and submitted to a host blogger, focusing on the backbone-less animals of our planet. These are the posts sent to me by lovers of spineless creatures!  Hope you enjoyed this foray outside of the realm of insects, but we’ll return to our regularly scheduled broadcast on Wednesday.


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright ©

9 thoughts on “Circus of the Spineless! (No. 71)

  1. Pingback: Circus of the Spineless # 71 |

    • Ha ha! I think that about 6 months out of every year, when I see the notice that a new COTS has been posted and I realize I didn’t submit anything. Hope you enjoy the posts this month! I thought they were really fun, though they always are.

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