Our friend Kirsten Anderson, a professional artist, has recently done a series of illustrations on “Animals of the Sea Bed.” She thought that I was one of the few people in the world who would truly appreciate weird ocean critters (that is what a sand dollar looks like when it is alive), but I think everyone should appreciate an adorable little crab face.
My favorite of Kirsten’s illustrations is this filter-feeding worm, known to the nerdy as a sabellid polychaete. They build little tubes out of individual grains of sand cemented together by mucus, and stick their tentacles out of the end to grab any particles that float by. If they’re disturbed, they can retract completely into their tube.
Other polychaetes have my favorite weird sex adaptation ever. They have specialized butt segments, called epitokes, that are filled with with sperm or eggs. The worm’s butt then breaks off from the rest of the worm and swims off – by itself – to find other worm butts and mate. Meanwhile, the rest of the worm goes about its business. So much better than being a giant-headed mammal.