Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Welcome to the Grand Opening of the Big Top. Bootstrap Analysis, Urban Dragon Hunters, milkriverblog, and the “Darkling Beetles, Barnacles and Bailey Circus" are proud to present the first in a long, long line of fantabulous, death-defying, stuntifying but never stultifying, mystical, magical adventures into the Land of the Lords of the Universe. Grab your loved ones, hold on to your children and sit up straight in your chairs. Time to peruse the writings and the imagemakings of the followers of the blogosphere’s favorite animated subjects. Where the motto of the day is “We don’t need no stinking backbones . . .” Come one, come all to The Circus of the Spineless!
Since this is our first time on the big show circuit, we thought a bit of instruction might serve us all well:
Getting Your Tickets to the Big Show
Peruse the show listings, find something you like and click on the link. You’ll find yourself lost in Blogtopia at a magical spot where the tales of the spineless are told, the portraits of their lives on display. When you’ve had your fill simply click your back button to return to The Big Top (that’s right here).
Better yet, save The Big Top post – this one – to your favorites list. Then when you click on a link you can traipse beyond the first post and take a long path through the blog. That is actually what we’d most like – to so enamor you with a few words, a gorgeous picture, that you’ll continue reading the best of Blogtopia. You can always come back here for more by scrolling down your favorites list.
So, What’s On Display?
Like every great Circus we have three rings, each with a different theme. The Center Ring is themed “In the Lab”. Here you will find the centerpiece posts – those that present summaries of original research, or interpret the results of others, sometimes critically. These posts are primarily designed to educate, and we focus on them for their erudition and enlightenment. The second ring has the theme “In the Field” and here we present reminiscences of time spent with our slimy little friends, and the results of trips to seek the fluttering, wiggling, digging, floating, and positively solitarily somnambulant animalia, and even back yard discoveries. Our focus here is on sharing the deeply-felt wonder of something personally new. The third ring is called “Through the Lens”. In this ring we present the best of the best of the captured spirits of our scaly, chitinous and mucosal buddies by professionals and amateurs alike. The focus here is on delighting you with the thousand words there is no need to speak aloud. So choose your favorite ring, grab a bag of peanuts and come back soon.
Where Are These Folks From and How Did They Get Here?
We put up circus posters on as many blogs as we could find and invited writers and photographers to send us their best. Which they certainly did! But, being that we wanted to spread the word about inverts and about blogs where you can find regular writings and photos, we also went in search of posts and photos unsubmitted. Is there a way to tell the difference? No, not really. Of course the only real difference is that submitters chose their own posts, we chose the others (with special thanks to Rurality for many fine nominations!).
Well, that’s about it. I’d say it’s time to settle in for a long night’s read – in fact, we hope it’s many a long night’s read here at The Circus of the Spineless. Here’s your program. Mr. Ringmaster take it away! Oh, and please don’t feed the squid.
The Center Ring
“In The Lab”
The Green Hornet: Holy elongate tentacles Batman, cephalopods have been making national and international news for the last several months – invasions of Humboldt Squid, the SCUBA search for live Giant Squid at Kaikoura Canyon, the captive Octopus that ate a shark, the discovery of the Colossal Squid.
The Ringmaster: Yes, dude in a green suit with a stinger coming out of your . . . Oh . . . but none has quite made the headlines like the announcement by a team of Japanese biologists that they captured the first ever images of a live Giant Squid. And the announcement comes the very week of the first Circus of the Spineless.
The Green Hornet: Wow! Is this fantastic invertebrate coincidence week or what?
Presenting Performer #1) Well, it’s a fascinating story, and the Spineless Blogosphere is all over it. However, we have amongst us a premier Cephalophile, an inveterate blog carnival founder, host, and inspiration, who we feel should have the honors of telling us all about the Giant Squid. Here, with a series on Architeuthis is PZ Myers of Pharyngula. Check out Fishing for the Giant Squid, Great Pelagic Orgies, and Cephalopod Gnashers. And while you’re checking those out maybe you’d like a snack . . . or maybe not.
Performer #2) While we’re visiting the cephalopoda, why not check out squidblog where they furnish news of the possible live sighting of Architeuthis.
Performer #3) Of course Craig McClain at Deep Sea News would rather we focused on the real giant, the Colossal Squid!
Performer #4) Carl Zimmer doesn’t need no stinking blog to teach us about just about anything, but he does anyway in The Loom and we’re richer for it. Here’s an evolutionary look at three quite different groups – The Beauty of Deceit, Love Darts in the Backyard, and An Inordinate Fondness for Horns (there’s a Circus insider nod there).
Performer #5) Aydin Örstan (who by the way is the next host of The Circus of the Spineless – so stay tuned) at Snail’s Tales tells us one of those very tales. But Aydin is another in that coterie of invert specialists whose favorites run beyond one Class. Since Carl took the snail sex above, Aydin just skips over to tell us about bug sex at Naughty Beetles and Evolution.
Performer #6) Our favorite west Texas writer Burr Williams takes a look at a critter few people have seen or know exists – Pseudoscorpions – at The Nature Writers of Texas. Check Burr out at El Llanero.
Performer #7) At The 6th International Mrs. Tilton strolls through Italy and teaches about a host of Arthropods, starting with a spider and moving through beetles, crabs and katydids, and then throws in a jellyfish for a bit limper treat. Then check out the arachnids that are not spiders. Mrs. T is mostly into arachnida though and found the Circus via the spiderblog from whom we’re awaiting some posts!
Performer #8) In a whole other phylum Michael Feldgarden at Mike The Mad Biologist tells us the dark story of the knowns and the unknowns of a new resistant-to-almost-everything bacteria.
Performer #9) Bora Zivkovic over at Science and Politics takes us to school on Ant Lions and how he came to enamor them as a younsgter.
Performer #10) What’s a free-thinking Circus without a little pornography? Well, it’s not that kind, but i am warning you in advance – don’t venture here if you’ve a weak stomach or sensitive leanings, because what you’re going to find is Linda Brown’s Journal of the progression of her Brown Recluse spider bite.
Performer #11) Ro Wauer is a prolific birder and butterflier with a slew of field guides and books of essays to his credit. What better way to showcase him though than to show his range with a Nature Writers of Texas essay on millipedes and a book review of two new tomes on dragonflies.
Performer #12) At Science and Sensibility David tells us that the way you engage in sex (if you happen to be a particular snail) has much to do with your personal parasite load. Some of you are thinking okay load me up. But that’s never the whole story is it? Better read up . . .
Performer #13) At the Hairy Museum of Natural History Matt Celeskey introduces us to some critters we know by their traces in Arthropleura by Moonlight.
Performer #14) Deep below the surface of the ocean afarensis tells us there are Polychaetes eating the bones of whales. But eating doesn’t quite cover the process. Check it out at Bone Eating Sea Worms.
Performer #15) At Organic Matter, the story is about the invasion of Argentine Ants, a genetic bottleneck that was, or wasn’t, and a recipe for success.
Performer #16) Hedwig the Owl at Living the Scientific Life is all up in Bronx Cheers for the Bumblebee. And that buzz? It's a harvesting tool!
Performer #17) Bootstrap Analysis takes us on an underground tour in As The Worm Turns. And this is not your old grade-school worms-are-the-fertility-guardians-of-mother-earth story either. Then follow another slimetrail into the Molluscan version of As The World Turns (or Slug Love, How Was I To Know?), in which our gastropod hero somehow gets compared to an, ick, vertebrate!
“In The Field”
Performer #1) Rurality is rural enough for Karen to find some odd things happening in the back yard – parasitized Catalpa Worms for instance! And then take a look at this Yellow Fuzzy.
Performer #2) At Michigan Odonotes Mark wants to see your Hiney! Well, what he’s really after is the U.S.’s only endangered Dragonfly, Hines’s Emerald. He also reports on the odd conjunction of invasive Zebra Mussels and the larva of a Dragonhunter.
Performer #3) Pam takes Thomasburg Walks and finds the coolest bugs around her garden. This one is a Hummingbird Clearwing.
Performer #4) Nannothemis at Urban Dragon Hunters uses my favorite Odonate non-field guide, Jill Silsby’s Dragonflies of the World, and calls it Ode Porn! Find out why here . . .
Performer #5) I had originally thought that i would allow no disparaging remarks in this Circus. However, i am going to break my own rule and say “What were you thinking?” to this fine bug at The House and Other Arctic Musings. From one endotherm to one ectotherm, i mean “Really . . .”.
Performer #6) Henry at Henry’s Webiocosm Blog had his own question to ask of that guy’s cousin.
Performer #7) Duncan tells a fascinating story of discovering a bit of sleight-of-hand in his youth. When is a flower stem not a flower stem? When it’s a caterpillar tale at Ben Cruachan Blog.
Performer #8) At Niches they watched the life cycle of an Orb-Weaver’s web.
Performer #9) From SwampThings comes a little fuzzy bug and a big not-so-fuzzy warning.
Performer #10) At The Taming of the Band-Aid comes a lovely portrait of a Blue Dasher, but that’s only one small bug in the Band-Aid . . . you’ll have to search for the others.
Performer #11) In the Ozarks they know better than to hang around when you can hear the fury building. Check out RoundRock Journal for the reason why.
Performer #12) Science and Sarcasm gets caught in the “hatch” and makes out just fine . . .
Performer #13) Cindy at the newly reconstituted (and quite lovely) WoodSong, tells about North America's only carnivorous butterfly -- the Harvester. Looking forward to many more submissions from a fellow mothionado. . .
Performer #14) In the last few weeks yours truly has been working feverishly to document the moths of two west Texas Counties. Read a couple of field reports and get in on the action with some closeup photos of the common and the rare at milkriverblog. Check out some of Presidio County in far west Texas from 8-12 September, and some of the denizens of the home place in Kerr County in the Texas Hill Country, from 28 September 2005.
“Through The Lens”
Performer #1) Top Through the Lens honors goes to Blue Ridge Blog’s oh so suave kiss-me-target for being nominated not once, not twice, but three times. So here it is! Of course, all good things may not be as they seem . . .
Performer #2) At Fairweather Zealot it’s an Orb Weaver Spider that hogs the lens.
Performer #3) I don’t care if it is a rarely photographed bug, this is my favorite all-time photo of a Bee Fly. Nannothemis at Urban Dragon Hunters is the image capturer.
Performer #4) I spent a summer cultivating the salivary glands of fruit flies – it’s a long story. But because of that i appreciate that The Questionable Authority has made art with the flies in his photos. And he somehow got them to sit still. He does the same with an endemic Hawaiian Ghost Crab.
Performer #5) The Robot Vegetable at Far Cartouche has a special taste for spiders and has loaded the photoblog Middle-Fork with superb pics
Performer #6) Jennifer Forman Orth at Invasive Species Weblog takes a subtly pastel look at ants on an invasive project plant. And takes a closer look at another ant that just isn’t hyper as usual, and finds it to be a masquerading Alydid bug instead.
Performer #7) Gorgeous photos are the norm at The Jer Zone and occasionally they come spiced with a poem. Or a story.
Performer #8) Elms in the Yard finds plenty to take pictures of in a garden in Israel.
Performer #9) On the River Nene, Katie, the bogbumper, finds a Banded Demoiselle, and an array of insects at Woodwalton Fen.
Performer #10) The Dharma Bums take a ferry and find a Sunflower Sea Star and Anemones along the way. After all that it’s going to be strictly a Lepidoptera showdown.
Performer #11) Pamela Martin at Thomasburg Walks has a Monarch caterpillar on the milkweed (spotted by her neighbor), which is perhaps overshadowed only by the gigacaterpillar of the Cecropia Moth.
Performer #12) Daniel Mosquin finds one of North America’s largest moths, the Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus, and uses his Botany Photo of the Day to showcase this “user” of “botany”.
Performer #13) Kreg Ellzey at Bird the Planet, may be keeping his eyes peeled for birds, but his lens is trained on butterflies. Check out his Banded Hairstreak and two Missouri Coppers.
Performer #14) No Direction Home is focused on the Joe Pye Weed, but it’s the Spicebush Swallowtail that really sticks out!
Performer #15) Niches has two swallowtails, a Giant and an Eastern Tiger, albethem in quite different formats.
Performer #16) Radagast at Rhosgobel comes up with a striking caterpillar of his own and a spider that doesn’t look real.
Performer #17) At Southern Highlands Cam the Great Spangled Fritillary hogs the blooms and the lens.
Performer #18) At 7610 it’s probably irrelevant whether it’s an Intermediate Sphinx or a Pandora Sphinx, as long as it’s huge and gorgeous.
Performer #19) De Rerum Natura’s Reed Cartwright asks around and finds out that the subtly beautiful moth outside their house is a Banded Tussock Moth, Halysidota tesselaris.
Performer #20) Natural Japan has some gorgeous butterflies and a striking beetle of species the rest of the world isn’t likely to see.
Performer #21) In the Western Hemisphere again, Naturally Connected blasts us with a menagerie of incredible Costa Rican butterflies and moths.
Performer #22) Well, start on the opening page and then go where you will at Moths in a Connecticut Yard.
Performer #23) The Ontario Wanderer finds amazing caterpillars – Giant Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail – and butterflies too – Viceroy.
Performer #24) Finally, I have a special series of photos of the Melonworm Moth in pheromonal high gear. The Texas legislature recently passed a bill banning this very sort of display at high school football games. Check it out at milkriverblog.
How to Wrap up a Circus
Penultimate Performer) Gentle Folks, i saved, until nearly the very last, my own personal favorite bug blog – because it’s impossible to pick out a single post/day – you just have to windowshop and savor at The Natural Stone. Here’s a teaser to get you started.
And Finally Ladies and Gentlemen, our Last Performer) I figure if you start with giant cephalopods, you ought to end with a tiny one. Here’s junior at DeviantArt
See you next time! Speaking of which . . .
. . . the Second Edition of The Circus of the Spineless will be hosted by Aydin Örstan at Snail’s Tales on October 31st. You should email your submissions to him by October 29th.
P.s. We’re looking for more invertebrate links for the sidebar at the host page for The Circus of the Spineless. Especially if you have a large collection of links that are centered on a specific group, or if you see something important missing from the current list, please pass it along to us.
And, of course, we’re looking for future hosts for The Circus. If you think you might want to do this, check out the links and guideline posts on the main page and then contact us at milkriver.
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Tags: Environment, Nature, Writing, Culture, Science, Invertebrates, Squid, Snails, Butterflies, Moths, Athropleura, Insects