Day: August 19, 2019

Science is Wiggly, But Fragile

There’s something new in the Critter Room!

For the 112 labs, this summer is the first time the new activities are being tried. Some have worked well and are relatively Loki-proof. Others have enough moving parts that I can get a little traction. For the Osmoregulation lab, the precious little kiddos are no longer going to dissect a kidney and learn how to do a urinalysis. They will be experimenting with real, live clam worms, members of the Annelida. This is a clam worm:

Image result for nereis

Sigyn thinks their myriad paddle-like parapodia are “cute.” I’m reserving judgment until I see one in real life.

We’ve heard that a small batch of test subjects has arrived and has settled into their new aquarium home.   Let’s go look!

Supposedly they’re in the thank with the sand.  Do you see anything?

clamworms1

I don’t either.  I understand they’re good at burrowing, so maybe they’re down in the sand?

(later)  Ah ha!  The human female and her minions are about to test the experiment. Now we can get a good look!

clamworms2

They don’t have any legs, but those little swimmy-things undulate, so they’re able to move pretty well.

(later)  The human female is shocked and grumbling.  The worms are supposed to be able to change the salt concentration inside their bodies to match that of the water outside their bodies.  The experiment called for the worms to be moved from their average-sea water tank into beakers with water that is more or less salty and then weighed at short intervals to see whether they are gaining weight by taking up water to become less salty or losing weight through losing water and becoming more salty.  And when that was done, they were put back into standard sea water and weighed some more to see if the adjustment can be reversed.

Um, the experimenters ran into a little snag or three.  Why?  Hello?  God of Mischief standing right here!

First, one of the treatments called for the worms to be put in plain water.  Note for future reference:  Clam worms do NOT like that.  Much wriggling and stress ensued.  They won’t be trying that again.

For the most part, the worms behaved as expected.  However, to make sure that it is only “worm” being weighed and not clinging water, each time a worm moves from a treatment beaker to the scale, it must be patted dry.  The humans went through a LOT of paper towels, and the worms were looking quite a bit the worse for wear by the end of it.  One of them didn’t survive.  (Sigyn was very sad.)

Afterwards, when the worms were returned to their big tank, I meddled some more.  I took some of the fine sand that the Prep Staff minions had stirred up while getting the worms out of the sand in the first place and worked it into the filter pump.  I was only trying to make the pump make funny noises, I swear!  I didn’t mean for the pump to fail entirely and make most of the worms die.  Don’t tell Sigyn.  She’s very soft-hearted and would be mad at me for days

(Much later)  Well, the humans went ahead with the experiment on a large scale with all the classes, as planned.  They ordered one hundred clam worms and were all set to house that many.  They even found some super-absorbent paper to dry the worms with, so they wouldn’t get handled so much.

That’s when I thought it would be funny to have things to even wronger.  Clam worms are voracious carnivores but will eat fish flakes in a pinch.  Apparently they themselves taste pretty good.  Two days before the lab, the Vendor (whom we shall call the Purveyor of Things That Can Breathe In Seawater) called and admitted sheepishly that somehow a fish had been introduced into the holding tank that was housing her worms prior to shipment–and it had EATEN two thirds of them or more. Eheheheheh! Oopsie!

Only about thirty worms arrived, so the experiment was set up to use far fewer worms.  By the day of the experiment there were even fewer left.  Who knew that traveling makes them hangry and liable to indulge their little penchant for eating one another?

And then there were eighteen.  Six each for three rooms.  The worms got put through their paces morning and afternoon, and I have to say, the results were not pretty.  The worms refused to do their osmoconforming magic in the morning sections, and by the afternoon sections they were quite battered. There is no way they’d last a whole week in a fall semester.  The filter pump quit again and, all in all, it the whole caboodle was judged a failure.

I haven’t told Sigyn. As far as she knows, the worms have just gone to the great big fish tank rest home, or whatever serves as the out-to-pasture equivalent for weary Annelids.  I’m sorry that worms suffered—but more than a little gleeful that the humans feel guilty about it.  They’re going to work with the POTTCBIS to see if a sturdier—and presumably less-appetizing!—creature that doesn’t have to be fished out of the sand with a litterbox scoop is available for next time.  They’re thinking snails.

In which case, I’m thinking garlic butter…

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