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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Penmanship

Hundreds of these were washing up on Salmon Creek Beach today:


Below is another view, this time on the open sand, and flipped over:


Are you familiar with these objects?  They're from a marine invertebrate, but their common name is linked to a completely different animal.  The next two images offer a bit of a hint:


Here the mystery object is compared to a bird feather.  As you'll recall, in the past some bird feathers were used as writing implements, or quill pens.  The similar shape of the mystery object to a bird feather led someone to give the mystery object a matching name.  Do you have a guess yet?  

The photo below the next one will give it away, so I'll reveal another clue now.  The object is an internal structure from a swimming mollusc with eight arms and two long tentacles.



And the mystery object is from a...




These are squid pens.  Instead of shells, squid have these long, narrow, chitinous structures inside their mantles.  The pens offer support and serve as a site for muscle attachment.  [If you're curious, the formal name for a squid pen is a gladius.]

I'm not sure why so many squid pens are washing up on the beach right now.  Are the squid being eaten by something?  (Lots of animals like to eat squid.)  Are they laying eggs offshore and then dying?  It was breezy yesterday, so the wind and waves may have driven the pens onto the beach.


2 comments:

beachmama said...

Never would have guessed! Haven't notice any on Doran Beach.

Matt Robart said...

They are laying eggs and then dying -- on Friday we were diving with the Research Diving class in 60ft of water off Bodega Head. There were thousands of dead and dying squid along with masses of probably hundreds of thousands of eggs. I only wish I had an underwater camera!