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Lyle Zapato

Dixon's Tree Ammonite

Lyle Zapato | 2011-07-17.7070 LMT | Cephalopods | Nature

Dougal Dixon's book The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution (1988) imagines what life would look like if the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event had not happened and non-avian dinosaurs had continued evolving over the last 65 million years.

Besides the eponymous new dinosaurs, one of his hypothetical creatures inhabiting the Austral­asian Realm is the coconut grab (Nuctoceras litureperus), a type of tree-climbing ammonite:

The coconut grab is an unusual ammonite in that it can spend much of its time out of the water crawling about on land. On many of the tropical islands of the ocean it can crawl up the beach and eat coconuts, and even climb trees to find the nuts when there are none available lying in the sand or washed up on the shore.

It's preyed upon by a flightless, tree-climbing pterosaur called a shorerunner.

In Dixon's hypothetical present, tropical tree octopuses apparently never had a chance to evolve, which is probably just as well for the dinosaurs.

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Lyle Zapato

Pontosaurus minnesotae

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-27.6100 LMT | Nature

Ponto Lake, Minnesota, Home of the endangered Pontosaurus

Ponto Lake in Minnesota is home to possibly the last remaining pontosaur (specifically Pontosaurus minnesotae) in all of Cass County. This mosasauroid's ancestors presumably arrived in Minnesota in the late Cretaceous when the area was reachable by the Western Interior Sea (for more on this mosasaur-dominated environment, see The Oceans of Kansas).

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Lyle Zapato

Why There Are No Tree Octopuses On Okinawa

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-15.6920 LMT | Cephalopods | Sasquatch Issues | Nature

Unlike here in Cascadia where octopuses live in the trees and are preyed upon by Sasquatch, on Okinawa, hominoids are arboreal and fear octopuses.

Three scared Kijimuna in banyan trees, menacing octopus in water below.

The above painting by Matthew Meyer -- part of his A-Yokai-A-Day series that you can buy as a print -- depicts Kijimuna in trees fearful of an octopus threatening to climb up after them.

Kijimuna (キジムナー) are a species of arboreal island hominoids native to Okinawa. Their diminutive size compared to Sasquatch, Yeti, etc. is probably a result of insular dwarfism and their partial baldness a likely adaptation to the subtropical climate. They live mostly in banyan trees, but will venture onto the ground to go fishing or interact with Humans. Human-Kijimuna relations have been strained in the past due to arson and flatulence. Human Okinawans often accuse Kijimuna of mischievousness, but this is probably Human chauvinism; we rarely get to hear the Kijimuna viewpoint in Okinawan media. (For more on Kijimuna, see Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai's Kijimuna page or the Japanese Wikipedia.)

But what's the deal with the octopus? In his blog post about his painting, Meyer partially explains:

One final fact of note about kijimuna — they loathe octopuses! I am so far unable to discover why they hate them so much, but the lowly octopus is the one thing they cannot stand. Kijimuna will avoid them at all costs, so keeping octopuses around is a fairly foolproof way for humans to avoid potential kijimuna-related troubles.

I think Meyer has inadvertently shown in his painting the reason for octopusophobia among Kijimuna: a dispute over territory and resources.

As I have noted before (see: "The Ara-Eaters: Tree Octopuses Of Polynesia" and "Nicharongorong: Tree Octopuses of Micronesia"), octopuses in the South Pacific are drawn to trees, and many have adopted arboreal or semi-arboreal lifestyles. On Okinawa, this arboreal niche has already been occupied by the Kijimuna, denying octopuses there the "green embrace" they so desire.

Octopuses are persistent and determined creatures. They would simply not abide not being able to tentaculate through the banyans, nibbling on the figs. (Athenæus in his Deipnosophistae relates that besides olive trees Mediterranean octopuses [polypus] "have also been discovered clinging to such fig-trees as grow near the seashore, and eating the figs, as Clearchus tells us, in his treatise on those Animals which live in the Water." [Source.] Presumably Pacific octopuses would likewise be fond of banyan figs.) Octopuses are also greedy (a trait noted in Japanese culture -- see: Kure Kure Takora), so sharing the trees is not an option.

Kijimuna, hanging as they are in the way of the octopuses' sense of Arboreal Manifest Destiny, would surely attract octopodous belligerence. It's not unreasonable to assume that centuries, perhaps millennia, of stealthy attacks and attempted incursions into their trees would have instilled in the Kijimuna a healthy, and justified, paranoia about octopuses.

Lyle Zapato

A Tree Octopus Renku

Lyle Zapato | 2011-04-21.0388 LMT | Cephalopods
松に藤蛸木にのぼるけしきあり

This is a renku (precursor to the haiku) by 17th century samurai poet Nishiyama Sōin, noted for his free-wheeling zaniness. My translation:

wisteria on pine --
a tree octopus climbs
there's a spectacle!

The second line would probably be more literally translated as "an octopus climbing a tree", but that wouldn't fit the renku form in English, so I chose the more economical "tree octopus". I haven't yet found any reports of actual tree octopuses in Japan, but Sōin's imagery -- intended as it was to appeal to common folk -- hints at a general awareness in contemporary Japan of some octopuses' love of trees.

Lyle Zapato

Pacific Northwest (Christmas) Tree Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2010-12-22.7450 LMT | Cephalopods | Crafts
Lyle Zapato

Y.R. Tap Comic #8

Lyle Zapato | 2010-10-21.5245 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots | Politics
Lyle Zapato

What Really Happened To The Dinosaurs

Lyle Zapato | 2010-05-26.4840 LMT | Cephalopods | Nature

Tree octopus eating a velociraptor
"Ocean Invasion #1: Octopus arborealus" by Daniel D. Brown.
(Posters available.)

Non-aquatic cephalopods are notoriously under-represented, if not completely absent, in the fossil record since they are mostly composed of soft-tissue and, unlike their aquatic counterparts, live in environments without a constant rain of fine sediment and ubiquitous muddy ground necessary for soft-tissue fossilization.

Given this explanation for a lack of fossil evidence, it cannot be ruled out that the scenario depicted above -- predation by giant octopuses newly colonizing an above-water world unprepared for their arrival -- is what really doomed the dinosaurs to extinction. Only those dinosaurs that were able to rise above the now-deadly trees -- birds -- survived the transition to a post-tree-octopus environment.

Lyle Zapato

Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race

Lyle Zapato | 2010-04-29.9520 LMT | Announcement | Cephalopods | Crafts

The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is an annual event where Kinetinauts race amphibious, human-powered art-vehicles to victory and glory.

This year has a very special entrant (from the Spectator's Guide):

Veke Versa Boat is from the Jemicy School of Baltimore and is dedicated to providing habitat for the endangered, elusive, and apocryphal tree octopus.

(I'm assuming they were forced to add "apocryphal" in the guide description by the shadowy, anti-Cascadian forces pulling the strings of the race -- note the special Belgian waffle breakfast held on a balcony overseeing the opening ceremonies mentioned prominently in the guide and on the official site.)

Jemicy seems to have a cephalopod theme going this year, as their four other entries are named Squid Man, Kraken, Cabrena Octopus, & Calamari. All five are competing for an ACE award, the most challenging, rule-encumbered level of competition in the race.

No photos yet. I'll add some links in an update after the race. Good luck Team Jemicy.

UPDATE 2010-05-03: Jemicy's Veke Versa Boat won the Engineering award! Here's a photo of it without its head cropped off:

Jemicy's Veke Versa Boat

By the color and demeanor of the octopus, it looks as if they modeled it after Thujoctopus pilosa, not O. paxarbolis. Nevertheless, anything that raises awareness of arboreal cephalopods is certainly worthy of note.

Lyle Zapato

Posters For Haiti

Lyle Zapato | 2010-03-05.5330 LMT | Announcement | Fonts | Entertainment
Lyle Zapato

Trick-Or-Treat For Tree Octopus!

Lyle Zapato | 2009-10-11.7150 LMT | Cephalopods | Crafts | Food

Box

Now you can help tree octopuses get their favorite Halloween treats: candy corn and shrimp!

Just download and assemble the special box. Then on Halloween say "Trick-or-treat for Tree Octopus!" and ask your neighbors for candy corn or shrimp. When you have filled the box with treats, hang it on a branch in a forest where tree octopuses dwell. Tree octopuses enjoy the challenge of removing treats from the box!