A Dichotomous Key to Circus of the Spineless #32

Welcome to the 32nd edition of the Circus of the Spineless. It our distinguished pleasure to be host here at Deep Sea News. To make it easier for you to navigate through 95%+ of the diversity of animal life, I’ve developed a dichotomous key to help you work through it. Naturalists will undoubtedly be familiar with such a tool, but for the beginner I provide a brief overview. Read both parts of the number and follow path that best describes the post you are looking for. If there is a number at the end, go to that number and repeat until you come to a post you are attempting to identify. Simple as that!

To continue with our excursion, please go under the fold…


1. Contains a mineral encasement (i.e. shell, skeleton)……………….2
- Does not contain Mineral encasement……………………………………7
2. Radially symmetrical as adults (i.e. somewhat circular arrangement) …………………………………………………………………3
- Bilaterally symmetrical (i.e. somewhat linear arrangement)…………………6
3. Mineralozed exoskeleton; tissue with gelatinous texture; no central nervous system; resembles “flowers” of the sea; of immense cultural, economic and biologic importance……………………………Must have been Coral Week at Deep Sea News!
- Mineral encasement interspersed with tissue in leathery matrix or fused to form a test ……………………..4
4. Spiny protrusions covering surface; spherical, occassionally flattened to a disc………………………… 5
- Contains 5 arms radiating from a central disc; flattened; drives you to abstain from drinkig alcohol when taken orally………………………….. Alcohol supressing sea stars from Echinoblog!
5. Singaporean locality…………………….. Budak’s Urchins of Cyrene Reef!
- “Small, stalked appendages that are scattered among the spines and tube feet”, head of which is “akin to a three-piece claw”………………. Pedicellariae from Jim Lemire’s Weekly Urchin series.
6. Gastropodous mollusc; Lake Tanganyika locality, freshwater though appears of marine gastropod form due to convergent evolution……………Lake Tanganyika Snails by (none other than) Snail!
- Gastropodous mollusc; mates for extensive periods times; occasionally seen mating on top of other mating snails (simultaneous lovin’!)……………..That’s More on Mating Snails at Aydin’s Snail’s Tales!
7. With chitinous exoskeleton……………………………..8
- Without chitinous exoskeleton………………………….23
8. Greater than 6 legs……………………..9
- With 6 legs…………………………….10
9. 4 pairs of legs; known as “water bears”; “in some case addictive behaviour towards tardigrades has been noted”………………Christopher Taylor describes My First Tardigrades!
- Greater than 4 pairs of legs, which are modified for clinging; causes reproductive death in shrimp…………………Kevin describes Isopods Cause Reproductive Death in Shrimps on The Other 95%!
10. With wings……………………….11
- Wingless……………………………22
11. Wings folded to dorsal side …………………..12
- Wings sticking out from dorsal side……………………14
12. With soft, waxy scales adorning dorsal side ……………. It must be the nettle ensign scale insect, Christopher Taylor has the details.
- Without scales ……………………13
13. Adorns itself with the corpses of the ants it has slain………None other than the Assassin bug of course, as budak explains.
- No bodily adornment; kills pine trees with weeks and potentially releasing “270 million tonnes of carbon” in a 21-year simulation, turning forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources…………………..Only the Mountain Pine Beetle can do such things, Ed Yong tells us more.
14. With 2 wings……………15
- With 4 wings……………… Amila finds a nest of dragons in his yard!
15. Wings small, at or less than body length…………………16
- Wings broad, more than body length…………………………20
16. Lives on crabs, eats yeast and microbes it grows on the crab………….RPM shows us that some “fruit” flies are really crab flies and has the phylogeny to prove it!
- Lives on other substrates……………………..17
17. Colorful, with extended mouth parts; may have magical properties………….. Charlie from 10,000 Birds bring us an strange novelty from Hong Kong, the Lantern Bug!
-Mouth parts not extended…………….18
18. Dies inside of glass flower vases …………….Sisu brings the Unfathomable Walls of an Unseen Prison.
- Resembles, or is, a bee…………………………19
19. Looks like a bee, but is a fly; “larvae are brood parasites and are found in bees’ nests”…………………..Rurality enlightens us about the bee fly.
- Is a bee, known ROTFL…………..Andrea tells us of the ROFLbee from my favorite site, LOLinverts.
20. Moth with big cute eyes; furry; with “ducky face”……………..Moth on Budak’s finger.
-Butterfly; face not so ducky……………..21
21. Grey butterfly with orange and black marking……………. A Grey Hairstreak from the Hawk’s Owl Nest.
- Yellow or white butterfly……………….Marty at Fariweather Zealot bring us a comprehensive guide to Sulphurs!
22. “One of the world’s most damaging insects”; with introduced range far exceeding native range……………….Alex at Myrmecos shows in vivid detail how to ID an Argentine ant.
- Known to “spend the winter cosily snuggled inside a cattail head”………………..The Shy Cosmet moth larvae documented by Wandering Weeta.
23. Gelatinous texture to skin; known as “gooseberries” of the sea…………… Mike at The Other 95% tells us about Cthe Ctenacious Ctenophore!
- Segmented; furry, covered dorsally with long setae; known as a “sea mouse”………………EAC’s Stitchin’ Fish blog shows off a knitted Aphrodite polychaete worm while giving an excellent background on this Mighty Aphrodite!

Appendix I:
Jennifer Forman Orth puts out an important bulletin to help South African researchers track the spread of the invasive Asian lady beetle, Andrea provides a photo!
Budak’s Semakau by Starlight and Cyrene Carnival 2
Ben Cruachan Blog’s Here’s Looking At You is a spineless carnival in its own!
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The next Circus of the Spineless will be held at Seeds Aside. Your submissions will be due May 30, 2008 and you can send them to: seedsaside at gmail dot com.

Dr. M (1606 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





6 comments on “A Dichotomous Key to Circus of the Spineless #32
  1. OOH, oh so clever! I am MOST impressed!

    (excited geeked-out flapping)

    And you even included stuff when I forgot to submit it, didn’t you? What a swell guy, Kevin.

  2. Jenn! I’m sorry, I don’t know why I didn’t put you in the key! You were supposed to go in around #13. This is what happens when I do these posts intermittently throughout the day.

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