Wednesday, April 21, 2021

SearchResearch Challenge (4/21/21): Internal incorporation?


Know how some animals use tools? 

P/C Cyberminnie at Flickr

This pom pom crab carries a sea anemone in each of its claws, using them as a defensive tool in the crab-eat-crab world on the coral reef.  The anemone has a great relationship with the crab, but it's completely external--it never becomes part of the crab.  

But, as you know, some animals take this to an extreme.  Corals are actually two different animals--the invertebrate that looks like a small anemone plus a particular kind of zooxanthellae (a single-celled dinoflagellate) that lives symbiotically in its tissues.  The coral animal can get the dinoflagellate from its parent (the eggs pick up the zooxanthellae before being spawned), or they can pick them up from the environment by ingesting dinoflagellates that happen to be passing by the coral.  

P/C Dan. White soft coral in the Somosomo Strait, Fiji. 

Likewise, lichen are a composite organism made up of one (or more) algae, fungi, and often a kind of yeast.  Lichen mostly reproduce by breaking apart--each little piece then grows into a larger, complete organism.  But lichens can reproduce sexually, in which case the fungal spores must meet with a compatible algal partner before a complete and functional lichen can form.  

Orange crustose lichen on a rock in southern Silicon Valley. P/C Dan.

Seeing these examples makes me wonder about the nature of animals that incorporate (that is, literally in-corporate, take another organism into their body).  There are certainly many parasitic organisms, including obligate parasites that can only live on a specific kind of host.  But... 

1. Can you find another invertebrate that incorporates PART of another animal into its body?  That is, one animal doesn't take the whole, but just select parts, and incorporates those parts into its own body?  

2. Is there a specific term for this?  (As you know, if you know the special term, that makes searching much, much simpler and more accurate.)

This might not be the simplest Challenge, but it's certainly a fascinating topic.  I know of at least two invertebrates that can do this incorporation of parts:  Can you find others? 

Let us know how you found your answers!  

Search on! 


  1. Thanks for this new Challenge, Dr. Russell

    When I first read the title, I thought it was about the fruit Lychee. Lichi in Spanish. Of course I was wrong and noticed when reading the rest

    In my first quick search [Lichen Formation] Found what maybe the specific term. I'm not sure yet as I'm still reading. The term is holobiont.

    Out of topic, when searching, noticed Wikipedia is asking for money today. Hopefully they make their goal. They are very helpful

    1. Searched what is the word for Holobiont in Spanish and then

      With [Holobionte animales] found this article in Spanish:

      They mention: " Sin ir más lejos, en los últimos meses, se han publicado tres artículos de investigación en los que se trata, por primera vez, a tres tipos de insectos como holobiontes: el mosquito, la mosca tse tse y el escarabajo descortezador."

      I wonder if at least one of these is of those already known by you, Dr. Russell.

      I'll keep searching

    2. In Google Scholar [invertebrates add parts of other bodies ] Still need to verify. Nothing at the moment

      Also tried with [symbiosis what are other types of relationship]

      The interaction among organisms within or between overlapping niches can be characterized into five types of relationships: competition, predation, commensalism, mutualism and parasitism Also says: "Trophic mutualism is exemplified in lichens, which consist of fungi and either algae or cyanobacteria. The fungi's partners provide sugar from photosynthesis and the fungi provide nutrients from digesting rock. '

      [trophic mutualism] to understand more about it

    3. Following Jon's Search, tried [nudibranch kleptomaniac]

      The kleptomaniac, aka the Nudibranch

      It's interesting. And even more the next one. Our old friend Spitting on your enemy just got a whole new meaning when considering the defense mechanism adopted by the Parrotfish

      Dr. Russell, have seen the cocoon while Scuba diving on the Parrot fishes?

      Out of topic (more) 2 Google Doodles to learn and enjoy today (plus the one from yesterday Earth's Day. The one from Saint George and the one in honor of letter Ñ.

  2. |creature incorporates parts of another| finds lots of other stuff but also this clue: Great pix here.

    "Also known as the blue dragon, sea swallow or blue angel, the blue glaucus is a species of brightly colored sea slug (nudibranch), and can be found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans in temperate and tropical waters. Like most nudibranchs, this species incorporates toxic chemicals or stinging cells from its prey into its own skin" . . . "When feeding on its preferred prey, Portuguese man o' wars, the blue gaucus stores the stinging nematocysts created by the prey’s notoriously long, venomous tentacles — these tentacles may average up to 30 feet long! The stinging cells are stored and concentrated for the future, so when the blue dragon is threatened or touched, it can release these stinging cells to deliver a far more potent sting than the Portuguese man o' war can alone. "

    now to find what this process in nudibranchs at least is called.. Northeastern University Marine Science Center Instagram ... says: "...steal the stingers of the anemones they eat, and use them for defending themselves, an adaptation known as kleptonidae."

  3."Nudibranchs can steal more than stings from their food. Some absorb toxins from their prey and emit them in a noxious mucus. This Indo-Pacific dorid, Chromodoris annae, eats a sponge that contains toxins. The nudibranch absorbs the toxins and stores them in the edges of its mantle as an unwelcome surprise for anything that tries to nibble it."
    A handful of coral-eating eolid species ingest the corals’ zooxanthellae, too. These symbiotic phytoplankton live within coral tissues and provide food via photosynthesis"
    Goniobranchus splendidus, for instance, repels predators with a toxin called latrunculin A, which it ingests from its sponge prey. "

  4. A few more hits on this great topic--
    Search in for [klepto] finds this nifty item "University of Portsmouth scientists are the first to have observed this cunning and brutal feeding strategy in the natural world and have named the behaviour kleptopredation"...""People may have heard of kleptoparasitic behaviour - when one species takes food killed by another, like a pack of hyenas driving a lion from its kill for example. This is something else, where the predator consumes both its own prey and that which the prey has captured."

    The behaviour is a combination of kleptoparasitic competition and direct predation." "The new study is among the first to describe a plant that achieves pollination by mimicking the scent of an adult carnivorous animal's dinner."..."species of Ceropegia pollinated by kleptoparasitic flies, use a similar reproductive strategy." "First, a bit about the unisexual Ambystoma salamander: They're female, and they reproduce mainly through cloning and the occasional theft of another salamander species' sperm, which the males of sexual species deposit on leaves and twigs and the like. When this happens, it stimulates egg production and the borrowed species' genetic information is sometimes incorporated into the genome of the unisexual salamanders, a process called kleptogenesis "These sea slugs sever their own heads and regenerate brand-new bodies" ... "The sea slugs in question already were unique in that they incorporate chloroplasts from algae they eat into their own bodies, a habit known as kleptoplasty. It gives the animals an ability to fuel their bodies by photosynthesis. "

  5. The term you seek appears to be kleptoplasty or kleptogenesis, the stolen goods are, I think, kleptonidae.