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  • Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty-Five

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 11 June 2012

    Scary Monkey: Week Thirty-FiveOn this cold and wet Monday morning, what better animal to talk about than one that likes it, cold and wet? Although it spends most of its time wallowing in silt, burying itself in wet muddy-sand, it scrubs up so well it would not show you up at a cocktail party. We like them so much here at the Grant Museum that we have two whole jars of them. This week’s Specimen of the Week is….

     

    **!!!The Sea Mice!!!**

     

    1) Sea mice are small, furry, cute rodents… yes? Nooooooo. Small, yes. Furry, yes. Cute… if you like. Rodents, nuh uh. They are in fact worms. But very pretty worms I’m sure you’ll agree?

     

    2) Sea mice have a dense layer of hair-like spines, resembling the fur of a mouse, along their backs. These spines are highly iridescent, and very beautiful. Once you have washed off all of the silt and sand that they burrow in that is. They appear iridescent green when in the right light (and clean). This colour is thought to scare off predators.

     

    Sea mice at the Grant Museum, close up3) Sea mice inhabit the sea floor all along the British coastline. As with garden worms, they are highly abundant. However, trawling and dredging equipment which is purposefully dragged along the sea floor, kills many individuals. In areas where fishing takes place, sea mice are hardly found, if at all. In areas without fishing, populations are high.

     

    Sea mouse in water4) Worms they may be, but sea mice are mean machine predators. Not only do they hunt and kill other worms, but they are also ‘hard enough’ to take down crabs. Small ones anyway. They are able to eat prey items that are many times larger than themselves. What is more, they do so whole, and head first. Yeah!

     

    Sea mouse- ventral surface5) Apparently the spines of a sea mouse handle light with “almost 100% efficiency”, which has gotten some researchers in the UK and Australia very excited. The spines, which are normally a fetching deep red under microscope, become an exotic mix of blues and greens when light is shone on them perpendicularly. Apart from the pretty pictures they can take, why do scientists care? Well apparently, they think they can copy this “technical wizardry” and with it, develop hi-tech fibre-optic communications.

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    2 Responses to “Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty-Five”

    • 1
      Victoria wrote on 11 June 2012:

      I love sea mice, their iridescence is so magical, even in jars. I still complain to my mum about the time I found one while beach-combing and she made me throw it back because it smelt. In retrospect I should have waited till after the picnic to show everyone!

    • 2
      Emma-Louise Nicholls wrote on 20 June 2012:

      Ahhh, that was mean! Though yes, they say timing is everything!

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