Natural History Museum - Marine Invertebrates

Me and the sea fans

Went to the Natural History Museum this week and really enjoyed the Marine Invertebrates room. I loved this part of the museum as I began to discover more about what I was picking up. My sister said I was hilarious as I was walking round like a child chattering to myself erratically. People were giving me odd looks as I went “WOW look at that shell! I love a good carrier shell!”
Beautiful and unusual example of a carrier shell...

Big old sea fan, with a moss animal / bryozoan (Cellepora) growing in its branches.

Urchins and sea potatoes...

I’ve found out that some of the pieces I found that looked suspiciously like seaweed are in-fact a completely different kettle of fish. I thought many of them looked too 3D to be seaweed, or dried too flexibly. For example the “fingers” in the photo below are actually sea sponges. 

Bottom five specimens are 1.) Sponge 2.) Sponge 3.) Sea fan 4.) Unknown variety, possibly another sponge? 5.) Sponge

New Zealand sponge innit

The most fascinating for me was the bryozoans, also known as sea-mats, moss animals, horn wracks and lace coral. What looks like seaweed is actually a type of bryozoan made up of thousands of microscopic animals. 

Not seaweed!

Typically about 0.5 millimetres long, they are filter feeders that sieve food particles out of the water. Individuals in bryozoan colonies are called zooids, since they are not fully independent animals. They grow in many different varieties and grow in different shapes including fan, bush and coral. 

Another angle of bryozoan
Fossilized bryozoans...

They are sessile colonial invertebrates but some do move. A few species can creep very slowly by using spiny defensive zooids as legs, at a maximum of one metre an hour.

Usually they don’t grow structures themselves though. The most common marine form they take is called encrusting, in which a one-layer sheet of zooids spreads over a hard surface or over seaweed, and appears almost like a tiny barnacle type mould. If you are in the nature of staring obsessively at seaweed you find cast a look out for them next time your inspecting a specimen. 

My sister looking in the cabinet of curiosities

They are found in mostly marine environments, sometimes freshwater, although you may find them cast ashore after a storm. And if you find them fresh apparently they smell like lemons. Probably don’t taste like lemons though so I would avoid chowing down on them. 

Literally want everything in this room. The sea whip is the long thin wirey structure in the left hand side of the case, below it is coral.

My absolute favourites were the sea-whip, a type of coral, usually quite colourful, and the glass rope sponge, which inadvertently does resemble some sort of contemporary oceanic inspired tampon… 

Glass rope sponge, love this guy!

My sister drew a dodo to enter for the wall of fame

My entry was this narwhal! If yo see him up do let me know!

Goodbye, untill next time...


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