Invertebrate Life in the Ocean: Curator’s Corner

Posted: August 23, 2012 - 16:53 , by royal

Hello, I’m Claire Healy, Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology here at the ROM. It’s almost that time again – Curator’s Corner is gearing up to bring you another opportunity to meet a curator (me!) and learn a bit more about the animals here at the museum, and the delightful organisms that I study.

Clare working in the field.

Cataloguing parasites while in the field, on a beach in Dakar, Senegal. Above are some boats that were used to catch the fish that were the parasites’ hosts! Copyright J. Caira

This month’s Curator’s Corner is all about the invertebrate animals that live in the world’s oceans. Invertebrates are animals that don’t have a backbone, like jellyfish, snails, squid, and the organisms that I study – parasitic flatworms called tapeworms or cestodes. Invertebrates are the most diverse group of animals on the planet, and indeed the oceans, and they’ve been around far longer than vertebrates (animals that have backbones). Invertebrates were the first forms of animal life, evolving in the sea hundreds of millions of years ago.


Burgess Shale fossils.

Hallucigenia (top) and Wiwaxia (bottom) are two kinds of invertebrate animals that lived in the ancient oceans. They are important examples of biodiversity from the Cambrian Period, 500 million years in the past.Copyright Jean-Bernard Caron [photos from the ROM Burgess Shale website: © SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION - NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (TOP); © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM (BOTTOM). PHOTOS: JEAN-BERNARD CARON.

On Saturday during Curator’s Corner, I will talk about the invertebrates in ancient oceans, bioluminescence in the ocean, and ocean foods webs, but will also share some of my personal research. The tapeworms I study are parasites that live within the bodies of sharks and stingrays. You will be amazed at the diversity of parasites that use these fishes as hosts!


Image of parasites on white background.  They range in colour from pink to red to purple to blue.

Light micrographs of 6 adult tapeworm species that parasitize rays and their relatives. Copyright Claire Healy.

Come and enjoy our hands-on, multimedia presentation. I can’t wait to tell you more about these extraordinary animals and the ocean world they live in! Join me at Curator’s Corner in the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity on Saturday, 25 August, from 11am to 4pm.

Sunset over the ocean.

My research involves a lot of time in the field, on the ocean. This is a sunset off the coast of New Zealand from the deck of a research ship. Copyright Claire Healy.