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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Eat, Prey, Swim: Baby Starfish Spin Miniature Whirlpools To Scoop Up Food

      Baby starfish scoop up food by spinning miniature whirlpools. These vortices catch algae and draw them close so the larva can slurp them up, researchers, including Dr. William Gilpin et al from Stanford University report in Nature Physics (12/19/16).

      Before starfish, which are not fish but echinoderms, take on their familiar shape, they freely swim ocean waters as millimeter-sized larvae. 

      To swim around on the hunt for food, the larvae paddle the water with hair-like appendages called cilia. 

     Starfish larvae also adjust the orientation of these cilia to fine-tune their food-grabbing vortices.

      Researchers studied larvae of the bat star (Patiria miniata), a starfish found on the U.S. Pacific coast, 

by observing their activities in seawater suffused with tiny beads that traced the flow of liquid. (Does this remind you a bit of Obi, the parrotlet, and observing the air around him that was suffused with aerosol droplets as he flew?) 

Too many swirls can slow a larva down, the scientists found, so the baby starfish adapts to the task at hand, creating fewer vortices while swimming and whipping up more of them when stopping to feed.

          A video of the  experiment is linked here.

        And I thought we were supposed to wait an hour after eating before swimming. . .

        A post on starfish the week we lost two stars, Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds? Twin stars/spirits, born of an instant. Rest easy together, ladies.


My artist friend, Judith's, words to Don T. on a clay tablet:



  1. Speaking of the Fishers and of baby starfish fishing for food:

    Is it a PEOTSian coincidence that Carrie's father and Debbie's husband is named Eddie (eddy)?


  2. Replies
    1. Btw, speaking of whorls, Blaine gave easy instructions over at his blog for closing the comments section after say, two weeks, thus preventing late spam (much more annoying than early or on time spam) ;-).

  3. An actual SARCASM FONT. I like it. Now to install it.

  4. Replies
    1. I bet they had a good chuckle after they found this. I wonder if the snake perished fairly soon after - every rattlesnake I've seeb with a good size lump didn't move very well, almost docile. Much like one's uncle after Thanksgiving Dinner.

      Too bad the snake's Barcalounger didn't survive.

    2. A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

  5. New live streaming. . .

    Happy New Year to all of you! Thanks for your wisdom, thoughtfulness, and humour this year at Partial Ellipsis of the Sun. All the best wishes for science and writing for 2017.

  6. Continents whizzing by.

    A bit of New Year's Eve sci/tech trivia: Over the course of 135 missions over 30 years, totaling 1322 days in space, the space shuttle never flew over New Year's Eve, because NASA was never confident that the the flight computers wouldn't crash when the ordinal date rolled over. Be safe and have a happy!

    1. Almost 5 feet is a lot!

      Here's to a smooth rollover to 2017 on the continents, deep in ocean trenches, and in the skies.

  7. Replies
    1. Happy New Year!

      No, thanks, to the Human Era designation.

      Now, if we could have, say, a Zebra Era. . .

      I might even go for a Babe Ruth ERA. ;-)

  8. Replies
    1. Wait, where's the science here? All I see is a claim of effectiveness from a market research firm.

    2. Yes, jan, you are correct, the science is in the long-term consequences of stress not in the actual song list. . .

      But, I did like the music and found it quite relaxing.

      And, I was in too much of a rush to read the whole article! ;-)

    3. I liked the warning not to play the Number 1 song while driving. I wonder if the artificial intelligence behind self-driving cars is susceptible to its effect? Did HAL find "Daisy" relaxing, do you suppose?

    4. I didn't recognize any of the titles. That didn't really embarrass me, except for the Mozart, so I clicked on that one first. After a few seconds, I thought "I bet that's that thing from Shawshank Redemption." A quick trip to the IMDb confirmed it.
      Then I returned to the article and "red" the following:
      A team of neuroscientists, which Dr. Lewis-Hodgson lead, conducted a study on sound therapy.
      Now I'm all stressed out again.

    5. Ah, no, Paul. Sorry if I led you astray. . .

  9. Note to Don T. by my friend, Judith, added to the end of this week's post.

    Take a tablet and call us in the morning. . .

  10. New post on "Clutch Problem: Dinosaur Hatchlings Took Too Long to Incubate" is now up!