Look at this star….
Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think our collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think we’re the group, the group who has everything? We’re here to tell you that although we’ve made great strides in-lab, it hasn’t been a total walk on the beach since we’re finally just getting our feet on the ground with protocol for testing our captured brittle stars.
I can happily blog that we have successfully completed four in-lab experiments with useful data. We’ve learned that yes, brittle stars prefer a dark environment over light. We’ve also discovered that they prefer a dark environment over a rocky, well-lit environment and generally a preference for shade over light. No preference for either shade or dark was noted in our fourth experiment.
Coach Kirsten encouraging the stars into making their in-lab decisions
During our trials, we have also noticed that both species of brittle stars tend to leave one or two of their arms outside of their environmental preferences. Whether that be from a tendency to watch their surroundings through eyespots or just feeling comfortable around Coach Kirsten and I, this behavior is significant when acknowledging their daily, natural behavior.
On Friday night, Coach Kirsten and I prepared a nighttime lab setup for a unique experiment. Starlit by the stars above and the brittle stars’ enthusiasm to participate in our trials, our outdoor lab glowed with anticipation of new knowledge and artificial red light to keep the outdoor lab setup as close to pitch black as possible. Due to random results on choice of rock or covered environment, we added evidence to our hypothesis that the brittle stars hide under rocks to avoid light, rather than for physical contact.
With nearly 200 trials completed now in lab and nearly the same amount to go, Coach Kirsten and I have our work cut out for the next two weeks. During a low point in our trials when we just want to be inside with the rest of the lab groups, Coach Kirsten and I remind each other:
The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else’s tank. You dream about going up there, but that is a big mistake. Just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean shore. Such wonderful things surround you, what more are you looking for? At USC, darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me.
Clouds passing by our outdoor lab setup
Two dozen brittle stars clumped together, celebrating the end to a long, successful lab day
Since beginning our experiments, our brittle stars seem to be enjoying their time in-lab as much as we have. They gained weight to the point of near immobility off of dead sea urchins we have been feeding them. They also seem to have become quite close with one another and are all happily coexisting.
Friendships made and bellies full, we believe that our brittle stars are quite content within our lab. In fact, we hypothesize the following to be the mindset of other wild brittle stars which haven’t been selected for testing:
When’s it my turn? Wouldn’t I love, love to explore CatShore up above? Out of the sea, wish I could be, part of that world.
Tune in next week for another starstruck update of our shining brittle stars.