STEAMy windows are something we attribute to teenagers, but there are a few sea creatures that would win if we had a competition. This weekend our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Mandë Holford shared the stage with actress/model/film maker/animal behavior Hunter College Masters student Isabela Rossellini at the Museum of Moving Images to discuss short films Green Porno and Science is Fiction by French biologist Jean Painleve. The screening, which is part of the Alfred P. Sloan funded Science & Film series, featured short films focused on the "love life of sea creatures" and was curated by Sonia Epstein Executive Editor of Programming at the Museum.
Here STEAM refers to a combination of art & science, aka STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics). Painleve's movies were done when film was still very nascent, but are just as lively and breathtaking as Isabela's contemporary take on the subject matter… and the subject of reproductive sex is always intriguing especially when it comes from leagues under the sea!
The films highlight nature's various twists of reproduction and mating from pregnant MALE seahorses who go through an eye rolling delivery of over 200 babies, to the asexual reproduction of starfish, and the orgies of anchovies and acera snails…. Dr. Holford offered her expert opinion on the advantages... namely increased successful mating (all encounters are good ones as the search for the one is guaranteed!) and disadvantages (lack of genetic variability susceptibility to inbred diseases) of hermaphrodite and asexual reproduction.
Of the creatures featured in the screening, we're happy to report most were venomous! Squids, starfish, and octopus are all venomous marine animals. Octopus have a many strategies for defense, ink, camouflage, jet propulsion... all octopus are venomous... blue ringed octopus lethal to humans. Squids release their venom ink via a quill. And starfish are venomous, especially crown of thorns, sun star, and leather star species.
Whether driven by opportunity as shrimps are in their high birth rate of which only a few will survive, or geared for equilibrium like we mammals, love lives and reproduction are an energetic investment.