Bizarre growth forms & treasures

Banksia Sea Squirt (Sycozoa pulchra) Banksia Sea Squirt (Sycozoa pulchra), WildGuide to Moreton Bay. Kookaburra Whelk (Gyrineum pulchellum) Kookaburra Whelk (Gyrineum pulchellum) shown 'perched' on a stick-'tree' to reveal how it received its common nameSome marine species are bizarre, almost alien in their growth forms and other adaptations compared to those we are most familiar with on land. This is because many animal phyla occur only in the sea, with none or only very few of their species colonizing terrestrial habitats. Many of these bizarre features have evolved to help survival in the sea where there are peculiar requirements for life, such as reduced effects of gravity on body shape and size, high density living in reefs, mechanisms to stop them sinking into the muddy ooze, lack of sunlight in all but the uppermost layers of the sea, reduced oxygen at great depth. In some cases there are no immediately obvious reasons why these species appear to be oddities, but presumably they are descendents of successful evolutionary experiments and mutations that have persisted over the history of life in the oceans, and these features continue to provide them with survival advantages. Some of these bizarre forms are also valued by humans for their sheer aesthetic beauty, with the consequence that their populations are increasingly threatened by over-collection. Marine molluscs, in particular, are primary targets of collectors and many are now protected.

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