Review: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

If you, dear reader, are a fan of American history, particularly New York City during the Revolutionary War, this is a book for you.

If you like the Broadway show Hamilton, this is a book for you to read.  Chains is on the other side of Alexander Hamilton. Chains gives an eye-opening look to what was going on outside of the major names and players of the American Revolution.  Chains shows a piece of the underbelly of American history.

The story of Isabel Gardener will break your heart and leave you wanting more at the same time.  Isabel is 13, a slave, caretaker of her younger sister, Ruth, and not one to sit back. Her story is page turning, heart stopping, and will take your breath away.

10 out of 10 for making your mind bloom.

In Memory

I’m doing something a little different here today.  A local author died a few days ago.  I don’t know if I ever met him directly but I did read his book.  The book focuses on local politics and I don’t believe I reviewed it on here.

I’m putting up the link to the local article.  Maybe those of you reading this who like politics will read this.  My local area has a very fascinating history when it comes to politics and is one of the most controversial in the area.

Here is the link:

http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Chronicler-of-Bridgeport-corruption-dies-11220772.php

 

Strawberry Moon

The full strawberry moon is out tonight.  A full moon is always awesome to watch as it rises in the sky every 28 days.

The superstitions surrounding full moons are many yet I find working two or three days after a full moon are usually worse than the full moon itself.

All creatures seem to stir more with a full moon.  The moon tugs at the Earth more than we as humans seem to realize sometimes.

Someone I know has been watching for the horseshoe crabs coming up on shore.  I wonder if the Native Americans watched for them.  In all of the research I’ve done, I’ve never found anything about native Americans and horseshoe crabs.  Are there any stories or legends that have been preserved about them in Native American mythology and oral traditions?  Horseshoe crabs were named so by the colonists due to their shape. What did they think of these creatures as they came up on the beaches?

These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering watching the full moon rise.

Ribbed Mussels

Most people know these mussels from what they find on the beach.  At that point the mussel itself is gone, usually long eaten and all that remains is the shell with the pretty purple-blue color and the ridges that give it its’ name.  Most people I show a dead one to know it is some type of mussel or incorrectly identify it as an oyster.

Most people also don’t know how much work these little mussels do and instead dream of them swimming in a good amount of butter.  Butter won’t make up for their work in helping us.

Ribbed mussels are called bottom or filter feeders.  They filter between 15 to 30 gallons of water a day.  (There is some disagreement on this number.  Basically, they filter a lot of water.)  They live between 10 and 15 years.  The math comes out to about 164,000 gallons of water that they filter in their life time.  Remember, these numbers are for each individual mussel.  If your local marsh or wetland holds a lot of mussels, that comes out to millions of gallons of water these mussels alone filter.

In the local marsh where I docent the tours, there are approximately one million of them.  Someone needs to do a count as close as possible.  They can be hard to see sometimes because they burrow down into the peat.

Also, people do come in and harvest them.  One of the other volunteers noticed one wall of peat along one of the channels in the tidal pool we use was missing mussels.  Upon further inspection one could see the indentations where the mussels had been.

If they are sealed shut, they are alive.  They open a little during high tide to let the water in and filter it.  Otherwise, they sit.  Or do they?

This was the first year I had the opportunity to see juvenile mussels that look like blobs of jelly.  I actually was on my hands and knees in the peat gently brushing it back.

They work together with the roots of spartina to hold the peat in place.  The mussels go, spartina will soon follow.  They live together in clumps.  Foe protection?  For mating?

I still have a lot to learn.

Other Parts

Interior parts of animals are somethings that may be forgotten about.  People go through biology classes to see the interiors, yet do we really think about them?

Do we really realize that all animals have similar organs to ourselves?  Do we stop to think about that?

During my last several posts about horseshoe crabs, I made a list of the body parts I haven’t talked about and usually don’t.

They have: a prosoma (top part), opisthosoma (abdomen), carapace (covering), hinge, chelicera, gnathobase, chilarium, genital operculum, gill opercula, gills, anus, cardiac, extracardiac, and subopthalmic. And I may be missing one or two.

Horseshoe crabs breathe through their gills like fish do yet their gills are on the underside of their bodies.  One can only see them when you pick one up and turn it over. They looked like layered fans.  Their gills allow them to breathe, unlike fish, both in water and on land.

And yes, they have a cardiac system to move that blue blood around.  (See earlier post). One of the main criticisms of their bleeding by pharmaceutical companies is that they insert the needles near the hinge on the horseshoe crab which is also right where their main cardiac is located.  This would be like having a large needle jammed in your neck or chest and your blood sucked out.  We don’t know for sure if they feel pain but they must if they have a brain and neurological system.

Thoughts?

 

 

Mommy and Daddy Crabs

Talking about male/ female crabs and how the horseshoe eggs come to be can be interesting and sometimes awkward depending on the audience.

Unlike the male fiddler crabs that have the large claw to attract females, male horseshoe crabs mate a completely different way.

As mentioned briefly before, females are usually larger and males smaller.  This is the first clue in identification.  If this is not clear, the next best way to identify the crab, if at all possible, is through their legs.

Horseshoe crabs have six sets of legs.  Only the back five are used for them to walk and to eat.  The front set, closest to the top of the shell or carapace, are called pedipalps, palps, or palpi. Pedi comes from the Latin for “foot” and palp from the Latin for “touching”.  On the females, these look like their walking legs.  On the males, they can be described as looking like mittens, boxing gloves, large claws, or large pincers.

Females give off pheromones to attract the males when they, the females, arrive on shore.  The males are usually waiting for the females to come up.

The males use these pedipalps to hold onto the back of the female crab on an area known as the opisthosoma.  This is the back part of the crab right before the telson.  They hang on very tightly.  Waiting.

If you, the reader, ever have the chance to observe the horseshoe crabs mating, watch carefully.  They are silent and strong and follow along with the currents one may or may not be aware of.

More than one male horseshoe crab can follow and fertilize just one female’s eggs.  One female can lay an estimated 9,000 to 90,000 eggs.  She may lay them in one hole or may create more than one hole.  The male or males follow along, attached or not, to fertilize the eggs.

Once the female lays her eggs, the eggs will be on their own.  The female leaves.

Most people find it shocking that the horseshoe crabs would go through all of this trouble and then leave their eggs. Yet if one thinks about it, they are not the only species that do this.  The animals humans look to like frogs, turtles, and fish do this as well.

The eyes (and telson) have it…..

People are terrified of the horseshoe crab’s telson, or tail.  My reaction is: really? The tail is used to help the horseshoe crab get around in the water, like a rudder on a boat, and they also use it to flip themselves over in the water should they be turned over.  However, it is very difficult for the horseshoe crab to do this on land.  Most of the time they need help, human help, to flip over or risk being eaten by birds and other wildlife.

Another interesting fact I recently learned about the horseshoe crab’s tail: there are photoreceptors on the tail.

What is a photoreceptor?  A photoreceptor is basically a cell that responds to light.

Horseshoe crabs also have 9 eyes and their vision, as we understand it, is very poor. However, they use their eyes and the photoreceptors to navigate their environment.

This gives new meaning to the expression “eyes behind your head”.