Alien in a barrel comes ashore
March 4, 2006 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Pram bugs invade Shetland. It's a strange wee sea beastie called a phronima. which cruises the oceans in its clear jelly barrel made from an unlucky sea squirt. More at the bottom of these Shetland nature notes here
posted by Flitcraft (15 comments total)
Someone should tell them that hitting command-option-P-R at startup zaps pram... or maybe not.
posted by sdrawkcab at 4:11 PM on March 4, 2006

Neat looking animal. Is there some significance to its discovery in Shetland besides its rarity?
Also, is the second link plagarizing the third?
posted by monocyte at 4:16 PM on March 4, 2006

They feed on the internal organs, leaving the transparent salp test. The test is used as a home and nest in which eggs are deposited on the inner wall....

... and they look like this:

Alert John Hurt!
posted by rob511 at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2006

Cool. I've been watching a lot of Blue Planet so I'm totally down with seeing new little critters.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:34 PM on March 4, 2006

Interesting sea critter, thanks for the post. There are more Phronima closeups here (Pages 5-15): you can see why its appearance and behavior allegedly inspired H.R. Giger's Alien.

In this image, the structure of Phronima's large compound eyes is visible. The February 2000 Scientific American article, Transparent Animals (PDF) explains that:
The other obvious changes involve parts that for physical reasons cannot be made transparent. Because retinas have to absorb light to see, at least a part of the eyes is always visible. Three solutions have emerged to this problem. Some organisms have their eyes on the ends of long stalks to distance them as much as possible. Others, such as the crustacean Phronima [see illustration on page 80], have extremely compact retinas and use natural conduits, like fiber optic cables, to channel the light to them. Still others, such as the large crustacean Cystosoma [see illustration on page 83], have huge eyes with very thin, pale retinas just under the cornea.
How ironic that to see, you risk being seen.
posted by cenoxo at 6:06 PM on March 4, 2006

This has always been my quarrel with Invisible Man movies. If you're invisible, you're blind.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:30 PM on March 4, 2006

This has always been my quarrel with Invisible Man movies. If you're invisible, you're blind.

Color blind, maybe, but couldn't you be invisible and still be able to "see" with some kind of ultrasound/sonar/echolocation or maybe ir or uv?
posted by juv3nal at 9:31 PM on March 4, 2006

I like bugs, but these seems are actually kinda creepy.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:57 PM on March 4, 2006

uh, correct that sentence for me.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:58 PM on March 4, 2006

hush little baby don't say a word
daddy's gonna buy you an invisible sea beastie
posted by recurve at 1:58 AM on March 5, 2006

juv3nal said: to "see" with some kind of ultrasound/sonar/echolocation or maybe ir or uv?

The retinas of deep-sea Dragonfish (family Malacosteidae) are uniquely sensitive to near-infrared light emitted by bioluminescent "headlamps" under their eyes:
The light produced by species like Malacosteus, Aristostomias, and Pachystomias has such long wavelengths that it is nearly infrared and is barely visible to a human eye. In addition, they can produce typical blue-green light from a separate organ.
The ability to produce red light, gives the Malacosteidae a huge advantage in the deep sea. Although the light doesn't travel very far, it lets them see their prey, without alerting the prey or any potentially curious predators. So these fish produce a red signal meant only for themselves, and a blue-green signal, perhaps used as a warning to others.
These fish, aka "Loosejaws", have extendable lower jaws to grab and swallow large prey. Who needs outer space monsters, anyway?
posted by cenoxo at 7:01 AM on March 5, 2006

I wish somebody could make me a little glass replica of one. I think they are fascinating.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:53 AM on March 5, 2006

No Phronimas, but how about a nice glass Glaucus atlanticus from the Blaschka Marine Invertebrates collection, or an untouchable Dorataspis diodon?

More about the Blaschkas' fabulous glass work here and here.
posted by cenoxo at 2:05 PM on March 5, 2006

wow, Flitcraft, so amazing. Wonderful FPP, thank you.
posted by nickyskye at 7:08 PM on March 5, 2006

Don't forget my favorite sea beastie. (Google had thousands of hits for 'em; images here.)
posted by davy at 7:21 AM on March 6, 2006

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