by Y, age 11 (Earth)/age 1111 (DooF)
Hey, I was right about the humans who were swimming near my GastroPod: they WERE kids!
And you know what else? They were super-nice! When I swam over and asked where I could find some noodles, they pretended not to even notice my green face (but I could totally tell they’d never seen a DooFian kid before).
It turned out they were doing a special class with Sanibel Sea School, which teaches kids all about the ocean and the creatures who live in it. I found out that noodles do not live in the ocean, but guess what does? Gastropods!
Not space-and-time traveling vehicles like my GastroPod, but these really cool creatures who crawl around on their bellies.
Actually, though, their stomachs are near their heads and their mouths are in their feet –or what WOULD be their feet if they had any. How DooFy is that? Anyway, the name “gastropod” comes from the Greek words for “stomach” and “foot.”
Check out Sanibel Sea School’s incredible gastropod photo of a live lightning whelk:
Some gastropods live on land (like garden snails) and others live in the sea (like lightning whelks, conches and moon snails). The aquatic kind were the ones that the kids were studying. I asked the instructor, a cool marine biologist named Doc Bruce, if I could join the class — and he said yes!
I explained that I’m here on Earth visiting from Planet DooF, where we don’t have any food at all (just boring old Gloop, which actually sort of looks like the slimy body of a snail). Since I’m really curious about this whole food thing, I asked what and how gastropods eat. Also: who eats them?
Doc Bruce’s assistants, Laura and Erika, spent lots of time explaining this — plus they gave me some really wild photos.
Here’s a summary of what I learned, in case you care about this stuff as much as I do:
Laura said that gastropods eat all kinds of things. Some are carnivores (eat animals), others are herbivores (eat plants). Some gastropods even eat … EACH OTHER!
They use a tongue-like thing called a radula, which is covered with tiny, supersharp teeth that are as hard as titanium. Moon snails use their radula to drill into the shells of other gastropods so they can eat them.
Cone snails use their radula like a venom-shooting harpoon launcher to attack their prey.
Some gastropods just use their radula to scrape algae off of hard surfaces. If I were a gastropod, I think that’s probably what I’d do. I wonder if algae tastes anything like noodles?
Who eats gastropods? They can be eaten by crabs, lobsters, octopuses, birds and other ocean creatures. (Humans can also eat gastropods – just the insides, though – not the shells.)
After we finished learning about gastropods in the sea, we looked for shells on the beach. I found lots: some were from gastropods and some weren’t. Check out the photo below and see if you can guess which shells used to belong to gastropods (hint: they have a spiral shape).
Later, we used some of the gastropod shells we’d found to make creatures that looked a little bit like space aliens (the ones I made are in the photo below). Don’t their googly eyes kind of remind you of Lieutenant Trippe?
The last thing we did was draw pictures about marine conservation, which means taking care of the Earth’s oceans so that sea creatures and plants can continue to live in them.
Since I’m still figuring out how to draw (we don’t do that on Planet DooF), I took photos of some of the pictures that my new friends drew. You can check out more of them below and at the end of this blog.
Right now, I’ve got to head back to my GastroPod (which, by the way, can camouflage itself as either a land or sea snail, depending on where I land it). I need to figure out how to find some noodles — or something that will convince Dad that my mission on Planet Earth is worth continuing. I really like it here!
PS I want to thank all the friendly humans at Sanibel Sea School for their time and info. It was a great first adventure on Planet Earth! If you’re hungry for more info about the sea and its creatures, check out their super-cool website: http://sanibelseaschool.org/
PS 2: Want to write your own DooFy blog? It’s super-easy and tons of fun!
Find out more about our kids’ writing and photography program by clicking here.
Intergalactic © Laura Martin Bacon 2011