Deck the crabs with lots of pompoms
While humans decked the halls with boughs of holly, researchers at the University of Delaware studied the peculiar behavior of Majoid crabs, known as decorator crabs. This species of crab uses the Velcro-like substance on its shell and hooks on its appendages to deck itself with sponges, algae, and other marine debris from the environment.
The researchers investigated this curious behavior by placing the crabs in individual containers with craft pompoms. Most of the crabs fully decorated themselves within six hours, and all of them sported colorful pompoms within 24 hours.
According to the researcher’s observations, the crabs, unlike Tamatoa, the big, mean crab in Disney’s animated movie Moana, are not attempting to “dazzle like a diamond in the rough” as they strut their stuff but are adorning themselves with decorations for protection from predators. The crabs decorated their appendages first, the researchers observed, probably because that part sticks out even when they hide. —J.B.
A reflection of design
The simple and tasty little scallop may not seem very complex, but researchers recently discovered that the 200 intricate, poppy seed–sized eyes that line a scallop’s outer edge function like a fine-tuned telescope. The eyes use living mirrors, rather than lenses, to focus light. In the study, scientists used a type of microscope that rapidly freezes samples so they retain their shape and do not dehydrate, creating the first-ever opportunity to investigate the scallops’ visual system much more closely. They found scallop eyes consist of a mosaic of smooth, tiny mirrors and crystals that minimize visual distortion.
The researchers made no mention of evolution in their paper. But then, how could they? How could natural selection ever explain a scallop’s ability to accurately process images from 200 different eyes all at the same time? That kind of complexity requires a creator. —J.B.
When truth is stranger than fiction
Archaeologists recently uncovered the full, curled-up skeleton of a very peculiar type of dinosaur partially fossilized in sandstone. The study in Nature described the fossil as looking like an odd combination of other creatures. It possessed a bill like a duck, teeth like a crocodile, the neck of a swan, nasty claws, and flippers like a penguin. The tiny meat-eater, only 18 inches long, walked like an ostrich but could also swim.
Puzzled by the odd appearance of the fossil and the fact that someone smuggled the rock that contained it out of Mongolia and placed it in a private collection, the researchers at first suspected fraud. But 3-D computer images showed the skeleton belonged to a single animal. One arm hidden in the rock perfectly matched the other visible arm, and the growth lines matched across all the bones. —J.B.