ZPi Logo "Serving the Paranoid
since 1997"
Lyle Zapato

The Mammoth Eye Of Mars

Lyle Zapato | 2012-02-20.7190 LMT | Retro | Paraterrestrials | Random Found Thing

Everyone has heard of Percival Lowell's theories of Martian canals, but have you heard the theory of Mars' vast thinking vegetable and its mammoth eye?

The above is an artist's rendition of the eye of Mars. It's not a metaphorical depiction. What you see is exactly what the theory claimed: (from the caption) "A vast eye, upon a tenuous, flexible, transparent neck raises itself high above the surface of Mars and can watch the growth of its vegetable body upon any part of the surface." Its "vegetable body" is a Mars-hugging super-organism of intelligent vegetable life that creeps along the cracks left in the drying Martian surface (Lowell's erstwhile "canals").

The Martian Eye theory was put forward as an explanation for the shifting white patches just perceptible to telescopes, which less paranoid minds ascribed to mere seasonal snow.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Dixon's Tree Ammonite

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

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.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Pontosaurus minnesotae

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-27.6100 LMT | Art

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).

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Why There Are No Tree Octopuses On Okinawa

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

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

How To Hypnotize An Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-06.8839 LMT | Cephalopods | Mind Control | Defensive Techniques

A while back I posted a book excerpt explaining how to defend oneself against a charging land octopus. It advised throttling them at the neck. But it turns out there's a more effective, and less violent, method to deal with belligerent octopuses: hypnotism.

Hypnotized octopus in hand.
Fig. 1: The proper Danilewskian method for
hypnotizing small to medium sized octopuses.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Cephalopods: An Order With A Future

Lyle Zapato | 2011-01-22.6770 LMT | Cephalopods | General Paranoia

In his essay, "The Extinction of Man", from the collection Certain Personal Matters (1897), H. G. Wells contemplates the necessary transience of Humanity in the Earth's spotlight and who will replace us when our 15-millenia are up, noting that we would be doomed should the cephalopods make a concerted effort:

Then, again, the order of the Cephalopods, to which belong the cuttle-fish and the octopus (sacred to Victor Hugo), may be, for all we can say to the contrary, an order with a future. Their kindred, the Gastropods, have, in the case of the snail and slug, learnt the trick of air-breathing. And not improbably there are even now genera of this order that have escaped the naturalist, or even well-known genera whose possibilities in growth and dietary are still unknown. Suppose some day a specimen of a new species is caught off the coast of Kent. It excites remark at a Royal Society soirée, engenders a Science Note or so, " A Huge Octopus!" and in the next year or so three or four other specimens come to hand, and the thing becomes familiar. "Probably a new and larger variety of Octopus so-and-so, hitherto supposed to be tropical," says Professor Gargoyle, and thinks he has disposed of it. Then conceive some mysterious boating accidents and deaths while bathing. A large animal of this kind coming into a region of frequent wrecks might so easily acquire a preferential taste for human nutriment, just as the Colorado beetle acquired a new taste for the common potato and gave up its old food-plants some years ago. Then perhaps a school or pack or flock of Octopus gigas would be found busy picking the sailors off a stranded ship, and then in the course of a few score years it might begin to stroll up the beaches and batten on excursionists. Soon it would be a common feature of the watering-places -- possibly at last commoner than excursionists. Suppose such a creature were to appear -- and it is, we repeat, a possibility, if perhaps a remote one -- how could it be fought against? Something might be done by torpedoes; but, so far as our past knowledge goes, man has no means of seriously diminishing the numbers of any animal of the most rudimentary intelligence that made its fastness in the sea.

This passage was probably the inspiration for the "Umbrella Beasts" of Lester & Pratt's "The Octopus Cycle", especially since their nature-finds-a-way-via-killer-whales solution to Humanity's octopus problem seemed a bit cribbed from the ending of Wells' War of the Worlds.

As V. A. Firsoff speculated, land octopuses, especially those that adapt to the challenging environment of the trees -- as opposed to merely hanging around beaches, snacking on sunbathers as Wells imagines -- may indeed have a bright future, perhaps even taking their place among the spacefaring species of the Cosmos. If Wells is right about the danger of them supplanting us, it would be wise to stay in their good graces. Erecting monuments in their honor couldn't hurt.

Lyle Zapato

Nicharongorong: Tree Octopuses of Micronesia

Lyle Zapato | 2010-11-18.5710 LMT | Cephalopods

My post on the tree octopuses of Polynesia contains a bit of sloppy geography; Palau and the Caroline Islands are actually in Micronesia, not Polynesia (I got the Cook Islands right, though). I'll rectify that slight against the good people and cephalopods of Micronesia with this post focusing on Micronesian tree octopuses.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

What Really Happened To The Dinosaurs

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

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

Tree Octopus Videos: Hatch & Attack!

Lyle Zapato | 2010-01-15.6195 LMT | Cephalopods

The new decade brings two new tree octopus videos. First up is an incredible one from the Save the Tree Octopus! YouTube channel (not associated with ZPi) which purports to show a hatching tree octopus:

The idea that tree octopuses hatch from solid-shelled eggs in trees is just fanciful, the stuff of urban legend. It has never been documented in any species before, although there have been unconfirmed reports from Palau of octopuses giving live birth in trees. However, the breeding habits of O. paxarbolis -- which must return to the Puget Sound to lay soft-shelled eggs that produce dime-sized hatchlings -- are well known among cephalopodologists, both human and sasquatch.

What I believe we are seeing here is a juvenile tree octopus that has found a bird's nest, pecked a hole through one of the eggs with its beak, and then squeezed through the hole to dine on the innards, causing the imbalanced egg to roll over, hiding the small entrance. This sort of behavior is often seen in octopuses, who enjoy tight spaces and free food. Once finished with its meal and heavy with yolk and albumen, it finds it easier to break the shell than squeeze back through the hole, producing the illusion of hatching.

While not showing the next step in tree octopus evolution that it initially appears, the video is still an interesting look into the food-web of the Cascadian forest canopy, and illustrates the tree octopuses' dependence on native bird species.

The other video is a short, self-explanatory action flick in the "octoploitation" genre from Raging Walrus Filmz titled Tree Octopus Attack! Enjoy:

Lyle Zapato

La Pieuvre Des Arbres

Lyle Zapato | 2009-07-22.9780 LMT | Cephalopods | Art | Entertainment

Below is some rare footage of a tree octopus from 1928:

The scenes were shot by the French experimental filmmaker Jean Painlevé and originally appeared in his surrealist nature film about octopuses, La Pieuvre (The Octopus). The silent short with the scenes in their original context can be found in the recently released Criterion Collection of Painlevé's work, "Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé".

(Thanks to Joshua for bringing this to my attention.)