When Dusty brought me a present that soon became affectionately known as 'Ted', after Tetraptera abyssobenthic (four winged denizen of the deep sea) I had no inkling of the journey this dark oddity of sculptural allure would take me on. Here now is a fortnight of Facebook updates of Dusty's Gift, unwrapped in fast forward.
For years now I've wanted to kickstart my Irish Summer with a maiden swim on Paddy's Day, but shrunk from the water temp. But now that I have a house I figured I had a warming chance. Vanessa and Mike were there, and, to our and everybody else's delight, Dusty. We celebrated the occasion with an intense belly-rub that totally took the chill out of the water. And then Dusty beaked me a pressie, a, be it dead, life-form hitherto unknown to me, a dark secret of the deep with an eager likeness to a bat. She never ceases to amaze. A trophy troll truly worthy of St. Batrick for a freeze-devil dare dive into the unwarming brine:
My mask camera footage
Clare Keane's email
I came across your recent post on Facebook and am very intrigued by your 'Sea Bat'. I am studying marine biology, am particularly interested in the discovery of new species and I have been closely following all the results from the 'Celtic Explorer' .
It may interest you to know that I have come across an illustration which closely resembles the creature in your video. It has been dubbed the Tetraptera abyssobenthic and was sighted during one of William Beebe's expeditions although no specimens were ever recovered. It would be too soon to jump to conclusions. However this 'artist impression' does look eerily similar.
It seems possible to me that you have unearthed a rare find indeed. I am based in Galway and if possible I would like to meet with you and examine the find more closely.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Isa Ruediger contributed an extensive article about deep sea research: Ecomar
Dolphin Days Ireland contributed a photo taken from Doolin Pier:
As I was rather in an amused mind set about the creature (we're on first name terms now and I call it 'Ted' after Tetraptera abyssobenthic) that Dusty gave me, I was not really prepared for the emotions it triggered upon meeting Clare Keane, the student who asked for a closer examination. At her first glance I thought she was going berserk. The intensity of her reaction, her extreme caution of handling it and her imploring me to let her take to share it with the scientific community rather threw me. I realised that this indeed could be a major contribution to not only our knowledge of one life form in the deep, but that it also would shed light on the complexity of interrelating species. I did feel rather reluctant of letting go of this explosive increase in appreciation, but also felt honoured to be able to contribute to insight in my favorite environment. On the spot I did make up a condition, though, that did not entirely give away my, actually Dusty's, prize. I want to write about the first hand results that issue from the examination. On my website, Dolphin Address, www.janploeg.nl To that Clare fully agreed, so now we'll have to see how this will result.
The 'innocent bystander' that took the very first photo of Ted turned out to be Clare Kelly and her partner, Gee Eyed Jerry contributed this merry video:
This is so cool! Clare Keane just called me to say they have lifted the fluke-like tail of 'Ted' and found 27 tiny creatures underneath it. At first they thought it to be parasites, but a microscopic investigation learned these were larvae of a shrimp species that were observed on either side of the Atlantic Ridge. And I just love the way these science people figure. William Beebe went down 1000 metres. These shrimps are known to live at 3000 metres in the immediate vicinity of hydrothermal vents. This seems to unriddle the recent enigma of similar shrimp species being dispersed over depths that do not interconnect. It looks like these shrimps 'hitchhike' across the shallows by the likes of our Ted friends. I'm holding my breath for further revelations, never been this deep.
To me the miracle of the deep sea creature lies at the surface. Since Dusty brought me a salmon( http://www.janploeg.nl/english/salmon.html
) , she has treated me to everything between a moustache of sea weed and a body board, and of course her beloved twin bottles.
But science has a actual agenda. Where we picture winter storms creating an oceanic vortex that churned up very bottom dwellers, they are executing a protocol of lining up priorities, peering through microscopes and gazing at X-ray renditions. There are the standard issues, like examining teeth and stomach content and establishing gender, next the reproduction organs invite extrapolation. The genetic information found in the DNA may reveal a pedigree, linking Ted to more familiar life forms. Then the mechanics of propulsion, streamline properties and the intricacies of equilibrium invoke attention. These and many more questions might lead to insight into the hypothesis that life on earth originated in the temperate vicinity of the deep sea hydrothermal vents.
In all this sci-fi excitement, however, there is a paramount concern: how could Dusty benefit from her generosity? With the imminent construction of the new pier in Doolin, and its inevitable noise pollution, and the shadow of destructive salmon farming over Galway Bay, there is only the capital of human interest that can buy Dusty, and all other denizens of the deep, an environment we would choose for ourselves as well.
I hope to gather preliminary results from the investigations outlined above and publish them on my website, Dolphin Address, www.janploeg.nl coming Sunday.
From the agenda published last time you might have gleaned the rest of the inquiry into Dusty's find is a routine job. Hardly so. Yet an other surprise has emerged: Ted is toothless, that is, he never had them in the first place. Instead he has a rather original way to break down his prey into digestible portions. By pumping water into them through his snout until they explode. Not a bad strategy as the shrimp they eat are heavily armoured. To boost the blow-up a gland adds a burning venom, which got the joke circulating among the researchers that they internally barbecue their victims. Now we also understand the reason they foster the larvae under their fluke, because, on the contrary, they farm them for consumption. And distribute them across all their colonies.
And if you think this is exotic, instead of rounding up results tomorrow, there will be a release of some of the secrets DNA research has revealed. So stay tuned.
In this day and age important discoveries have shifted from geographical grandeur to microcosmic slang. And something so tiny it defies the naked eye has caused an outrageous stir in Clare's circle. I will try to translate the excitement into digestible folk speak. Ted has been found to have a highly remarkable code of DNA. In the 1950s DNA was hypothesised as three-stranded, but was later refuted in favour of the double helix. Ted has what is known as a 'true' triple helix, something that is only considered in terms of theoretical potency. This find immediately gives air to the theory of all life on earth coming from the temperate waters surrounding the hydrothermal vents as it quadruples the combinations possible. Clare told me their discussion has become highly speculative. 'This means that life forms are not only multi-related, there would even be kinship between animals and plants, even minerals. In our wildest imagination, it is like the sluice doors are suddenly bursting from missing links'.
I may be a level-headed Dutchman to whom it all sounds too good to be true. It wouldn't be the first time a heralded breakthrough would stumble over a minor detail into oblivion. But maybe I should not stare ahead, but just enjoy the ride!
But in our fast-fetched pursuit of Knowledge we have arrogantly left the key player in this odyssey out of the equation. Could Dusty herself contribute any information to her find? Read on in the right column on the home page: 'The Final Countdown'.