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Glass Sea Creature: Glass Models and Interesting Facts of 5 Sea Dwellers

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The author is a research enthusiast. She studied botany and zoology as major subjects in her bachelor's program.

Glass Model of Musky Octopus

Glass Model of Musky Octopus

A History of Glass Models

These glass models are also known as "Glass Sea Creature" and "Blaschka's glass models" and comprise highly realistic glass botanical and sea creature models. The German glass artists, Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolf Blaschka, were the first creators of glass biological models. In 1853, Leopold Blaschka—in a state of grief after losing his mother and wife—traveled to the United States. His ship remained in the sea for two weeks. During this period, he studied and sketched marine invertebrates and was fascinated by the luminescent ocean dwellers. Before this trip, he was working on his family business, which was the production of costume ornaments, glass eyes, lab equipment, and other fancy goods.

Between 1863 to 1880, the Blaschka family made 10,000 highly meticulous glass models of 700 different species. Harvard's Museum of Natural History exhibits many models, including Blaschka's glass invertebrate collection.

Importance of Blaschka's Glass Models

The Blaschka family intentionally focused on making models of soft-bodied sea creatures because real-life specimens couldn't be preserved in alcohol in their true shape and color and were hard to study in detail. So only glass models could convey the translucency of delicate sea creatures. Sometimes, the Blaschka family created the whole life stages of animals, from egg to larvae to adult. It was easy for students to understand the life cycle of those animals. These models are perfect examples of a successful union between science and the arts and can be used as teaching aids.

Portuguese Man o' War (Physalia Physalis)

The above glass model is Physalia Physalis—also known as 'bluebottle' or floating terror is a marine hydrozoan (from ancient Greek: hydro, "water" and zoan, "animals"). It is the only species in the genus Physalis and uses jet propulsion to move. It exists in the form of colonies and each colony is and each smaller unit is called a zooid. Man o' War lives at the surface of the ocean. The most conspicuous part of the Man o' War is the pneumatophore, or bladder, which is translucent and 3.5 to 11.8 inches long. It allows the colony to move with the prevailing wind and also acts as a floating device.

The Portuguese Man o' War delivers a horrible sting that usually causes severe pain to humans and leaves whip-like, red welts on their skin. If care is not taken, the venom travels to the lymph nodes, causing symptoms like swelling of the larynx, cardiac distress, and difficulty in breathing. In some severe cases, it can lead to death.

Interesting Facts

  • The tentacles of Portuguese Man o’ Wars can grow as long as 165 feet.
  • It was named after its resemblance to 18th-century Portuguese warships.
  • Each colony acts as a specific sex—male or female.
  • It is a venomous species and delivers a horrible sting that can be fatal.
Glass Model of Radiolarian

Glass Model of Radiolarian

Radiolaria

The beautiful model above is a radiolarian. Radiolaria are protozoa that are found as zooplankton throughout the global ocean. They are tiny creatures, between 0.1 and 0.2 millimeters in size, and contain unique, glass-like exoskeletons. The skeleton is formed by bars or spines and is made up of silica. Reproduction takes place by budding and binary fission. They often travel in gelatinous colonies, which can be seen with the naked eye. They feed on bacteria by ingesting them and also through the photosynthesis of symbiotic algae.

Interesting Facts

  • Dead radiolarians are transformed into a siliceous ooze and cover a large part of the ocean floor.
  • These alien-looking creatures have lived on our planet for approximately 500 million years.
The glass model of octopus

The glass model of octopus

Octopus

These soft-bodied cephalopods inhibit various regions of the ocean and have a short life span. The octopuses are bilaterally symmetrical. They are made up of soft tissues that allow them to squeeze through the tiny gaps. An ink sac is present under their digestive gland. After shooting out the ink, a thick, dark blob is created, which allows octopuses to escape from predators. They are predatory animals and feed on other mollusks such as calms and whelks. Open ocean octopuses feed on prawns, fish, and other cephalopods.

Interesting Facts

  • Octopus blood is blue because of hemocyanin—a copper-rich protein.
  • Octopus has three hearts and nine brains. Two hearts pump blood to the gills, and the larger one circulates blood to the rest of the body.
  • All the arms contain mini-brains that help them act independently.
  • If one arm of an octopus is lost, it can grow back in a few days.
  • The Octopus is widely considered the most intelligent invertebrate.
  • Its camouflage abilities are outstanding. Its skin can change color and pattern according to its surroundings.
  • Each octopus contains a hidden beak, which is made up of keratin. An octopus uses its beak to inject venom and crush crabs.

Sea Anemones

The magnificent glass model above is of fighting sea anemones. They are marine animals with predatory qualities. The colonies of sea anemones fight with each other for territory and act like armies. They consist of a single polyp. Breeding occurs by liberating sperm and eggs into the sea. They also breed asexually, in which they break in half or into smaller pieces that regenerate into polyps. The majority of sea anemones are sessile (immobile or lacking mobility). They feed on their prey, which includes small fish, dislodged mollusks, and carbs.

Glass Models of Sea Anemones

Glass Models of Sea Anemones

Interesting Facts

  • Sea anemones can change their shape dramatically. The tentacles and columns can lengthen, contract, bend, and twist as well because of the longitudinal, transverse, and diagonal sheets of muscles.
  • They are named after a terrestrial flowering plant, the anemone. They are also known as "flowers of the sea" because of their bright colors and body shape.
  • Many fish live in the tentacles of sea anemones. Of these, the most recognizable is "clownfish" or "anemone fish". They both (sea anemones and clownfish) have a mutualistic relationship.
  • Some species of sea anemone can change their sex at a later stage of their lives.

Honeycomb Worm (Sabellaria Alveolata)

Sabellaria Alveolata is a reef-forming polychaete (a class of annelid worms). Its common name, "honeycomb worm", is derived from the honeycomb-like pattern of its tube reefs. The worm lives in these small tubes, which are constructed of cemented coarse sand. At low tide, the worm stays in the tube, but when the tide comes back, it appears from the top of the roof to feed upon microalgae by filtering them from the seawater.

  • They are filter-feeders—extract their food by filtering water.
  • These worms were first described in 1767.

Final Words of Appreciation

These incredible models are perfect examples of glass art made by the Bohemian father-and-son team, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. These models are remarkable for their fragility, beauty, and scientific accuracy. They started disappearing into dusty closets. But in the 1960s, these models were rediscovered in the cabinet at Cornell. The Blaschka family was much more than masters of glass-making.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 EK Jadoon

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