Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Phylum Mollusca: An Invertebrate Super-Villain

By Ryan Pearson
Ever heard of Dr. Octopus? Well he was spawned from this diverse phylum of invertebrate animals with some crazy super powers of their own. The thing is, he wasn’t entirely accurate in the comic books, and in reality a super-villain from this phylum could be much, much scarier if the authors did their research.
An Octopus in the Gold Coast Seaway. Photo.Ryan Pearson.

The rest of the mollusc phylum include critters like snails & slugs (Gastropoda), clams and oysters (Bilvalvia), and the class that Doc Oc was based on also features Cuttlefish and Squid (Cephlapoda).

So how about we create our own super villain? One with all the attributes that the Molluscs share as well as some optional add-ons if we want to give him some super side-kicks. Before we name him, let’s work out exactly which super-powers he has. 

Firstly, he needs to have a radula, a feature shared by all but one class in Mollusca – the bivalves. A radula you ask? Sounds like a rad, undulating device. Well that’s kinda what it is… This bad-ass rasping tool is basically like having a chainsaw tongue covered in rows of tiny teeth. How freaking unbeatable would Dr Octopus have been if they’d given him one of these? First addition: Chainsaw tongue – the side-effect being a terrible speaking voice.

Next, almost all molluscs have some kind of shell – sometimes it’s internal but more often it’s external. Dr Oc never had any armor plating that I remember? How careless. This shell is secreted from the body and made of calcium carbonate meaning our new villain never has to bother maintaining it (because let’s face it, super villains aren’t known for their personal hygene), if it wears down he just grows some more. Second Addition: Internal Armor Plating – probably around the mid-body/arse area. A bit lumpy, but effective.

Holy Torsion Batman! What the hell is torsion you ask? Well, ever heard of a contortionist? Same shit, difference species, but with much, much more flexibility than us humans can manage. Sometime during their life cycle, most molluscs pick up their ‘rear end', and turn it around to sit closer to their mouths. Sea Snails tend to poop right above their mouths… eww. Gross I know, but hey… it works for them. It’s not only torsion that gives them this enormous flexibility, but they also have really really soft bodies that can squish around into almost any shape. Image if Doc Oc could make his escape by slipping underneath a door, or through the bars of a jailhouse. This guy is starting to sound unstoppable. Third addition: Uber-torsion and the ability to talk a lot of shit.

Nudibranch: Obscure hypselodoris in the Gold Coast Seaway. Ryan Pearson
Next, no super-villain is complete without a flamboyant costume. What do we choose for him? All molluscs have a mantle – this is kinda like a dress that runs along the side of most of their bodies – uh oh, our villain just became a lady. Besides, the nudibranchs are so pretty with their crazy colourful patterns which also manage to send a message ‘if you mess with me, you will die’. It has something to do with the killer toxins they hold, but we’ll get to that later. So I reckon the general form of our super-villain(ess) is in a bright, colourful dress (and a predominantly red theme). But that’s not all – you all probably know that some of this phylum have an amazing ability to change the way they look as a form of camouflage. Where the hell was that ability in Doc Oc? This crazy, super-villain bitch is going to have that ability. Fourth Addition: Invisibility – usually only happens when someone is actually looking for her.

I’m not going to go into much more detail here, but let’s steal some tricks from other super-characters that relate to our new villainess. She’s toxic (a la the nudibranchs), so if she kisses you or even breathes on you, you know what happens (buh byeee). She does have eight appendages like Doc Oc (but she can make them selectively invisible of course). This makes her very good at puppeteering  and having people say exactly what she wants them to.

In summary, she’s mainly red, has no backbone, can escape from any situation, talks a lot of shit in a terrible speaking voice, disappears when someone wants to find her, has a lumpy rear end and mid-section, and can make others speak her mind. Ah ha! I now have the perfect name for our new super-villain… Julia Gillard (Mollusca gillardii).

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