What Is Science Decks

Science Decks grew out of a love of science (we are all scientists or science illustrators), science outreach and, well, playing card games. We mixed it all in a laboratory blender and out came Science Decks. Here we offer science themed playing cards and, in the near future, a line of science trading cards.

Mollusc Playing cards

A trio of Molluc Diversity Playing Cards

The first product to make into our store is a deck of high quality playing cards that have a distinctly marine science spin to them – Mollusc Diversity Playing Cards.

We hope you enjoy the site and the cards. Please send us your comments, suggestions or photos of you playing cards or your favorite card in whatever unique or special location you like to play cards. With your permission, we’ll publish our favorites here.

Recent Posts

Why Molluscs?

It’s been asked of us before “Why study molluscs?” and more recently “Why make mollusc playing cards?”

Why study molluscs?

Because they are very interesting, cool and some even taste great…

Detail from a Sailor's Valentine

Detail from a Sailors Valentine by Bill Jordan

Most of us are familiar with at least a few species of mollusc (Phylum Mollusca), mostly as food like oysters and clams, or as garden pests like snails and slugs. Molluscs have long been important to humans, with solid evidence of man’s use of molluscs as food, tools and ornamentation extending back to the Middle Stone Age (127,000 years ago) in Africa and Eurasia [1, 2]. Today molluscs remain a very important global food source (in excess of 16 million metrics tons of protein) worth in excess of $15 billion [3]. Just as shells provided our ancestors with a trade medium (shell beads) and canvas for art, today the trade (legal and illegal) of sea shells and pearls continues, as does use of shells in art and as inspiration.

Of all the animals, the Mollusca have the second largest number of present day species with 200,000+ species. There are in excess of 130,000 described species of mollusc alive today and conservative estimates put the number of undiscovered or un-described living species at 70,000 or more [4]. The fossil record for Mollusca includes about 70,000 described extinct species and extends back at least to the Cambrian (543 to 490 Million years ago) and possibly to the Neoproterozoic (~543 – 1000 million years ago) if Kimberella proves to be a mollusc[5].

A Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni being prepared for study in New Zealand

A sub-adult Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni being prepared for study in New Zealand

Aside from sheer numbers of extant and extinct species, the molluscs are also one of the most diverse groups of animals, with 8 classes of living organisms and at least two additional classes from the fossil record. Shelled molluscs range in size from less than 1mm (Omalogyra fusca[6]) to the giant clam (Tridacna gigas) at well over a 1.25 meters[7]. While most molluscs are shelled, shell-less molluscs also vary immensely in size (and shape) from 1mm long eyeless worm-like members of the Aplacophora class, which are found living between grains of sand, to the the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), a well-named deep-sea predator which reaches total lengths of at least 14 meters (~46 feet – the length of a bus!) with a dinner plate sized eye that rivals ours in complexity.

Molluscs are an extremely diverse and important group of animals (evolutionarily, ecologically, economically and gastronomically), which makes them both fun and challenging to study. They are found in just about every ecosystem in the world. Often they function as ecosystem engineers, like oysters and other bivalves, which filter the water and can form large reefs. Although there are may molluscs in freshwater and on land, most molluscs are marine. Molluscs have adopted a wide variety of feeding modes including scraping detritus and diatoms from rocks, filter feeding, herbivory and carnivory. There are molluscs with gills and molluscs with lungs, molluscs with and without eyes (and just about every type of eye in-between!), molluscs with a radula (a rasping tongue like organ found only in molluscs) and molluscs without. Some molluscs have very simple brains, others are extremely complex (very intelligent those cephalopods!).

Why mollusc cards?

Unfortunately what makes them fun and challenging to study can also sometimes make it difficult to explain, especially to all age groups and often in a very limited time frame. There is no “All molluscs have….” rule for molluscs as there are with most other animal groups. Any simplification risks over-simplifying, yet we rarely have time – or attention span – to go into a great deal of detail. We wanted to have an outreach product that we could use with a wide range of ages and education levels as a fun reinforcement tool that focuses attention on the diversity of marine molluscs . We wanted something that could augment our other outreach activities during presentations, but that could also be left with a class and continue to educate curious minds. We wanted something kids and adults could, and would, pick up and use to play the card games they already know, but then be able to see and read about molluscs at the same time. Thus the Mollusc Playing Cards were born.

[1] Steele & Klein (2008) Intertidal shellfish use during the Middle and Later Stone Age of South Africa. IN Archaeofauna, 17.63-76.
  Author = {Steele, T.E. and Klein, R.G.},
  Date-Added = {2011-12-18 07:13:29 +0000},
  Date-Modified = {2011-12-18 07:16:01 +0000},
  Journal = {Archaeofauna},
  Pages = {63-76},
  Title = {Intertidal shellfish use during the Middle and Later Stone Age of South Africa},
  Volume = {17},
  Year = {2008}}
[2] [doi] Kuhn, S., Stiner, M., Reese, D. & Gülecc, E. (2001) Ornaments of the earliest Upper Paleolithic: New insights from the Levant. IN Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98.7641-7646.
  Abstract = {{Two sites located on the northern Levantine coast, \"{U}\c{c}a\u{g}{\i}zl{\i} Cave (Turkey) and Ksar 'Akil (Lebanon) have yielded numerous marine shell beads in association with early Upper Paleolithic stone tools. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates indicate ages between 39,000 and 41,000 radiocarbon years (roughly 41,000--43,000 calendar years) for the oldest ornament-bearing levels in \"{U}\c{c}a\u{g}{\i}zl{\i} Cave. Based on stratigraphic evidence, the earliest shell beads from Ksar 'Akil may be even older. These artifacts provide some of the earliest evidence for traditions of personal ornament manufacture by Upper Paleolithic humans in western Asia, comparable in age to similar objects from Eastern Europe and Africa. The new data show that the initial appearance of Upper Paleolithic ornament technologies was essentially simultaneous on three continents. The early appearance and proliferation of ornament technologies appears to have been contingent on variable demographic or social conditions.}},
  Author = {Kuhn, Steven L. and Stiner, Mary C. and Reese, David S. and G\"{u}le\c{c}, Erksin},
  Citeulike-Article-Id = {10139211},
  Citeulike-Linkout-0 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.121590798},
  Citeulike-Linkout-1 = {http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/98/13/7641},
  Citeulike-Linkout-2 = {http://view.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11390976},
  Citeulike-Linkout-3 = {http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=11390976},
  Date-Added = {2011-12-18 04:19:09 +0000},
  Date-Modified = {2011-12-18 04:19:54 +0000},
  Day = {19},
  Doi = {10.1073/pnas.121590798},
  Journal = {Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences},
  Keywords = {archeology, mollusca, paleolithic},
  Month = jun,
  Number = {13},
  Pages = {7641--7646},
  Pmid = {11390976},
  Posted-At = {2011-12-18 04:17:32},
  Priority = {2},
  Title = {{Ornaments of the earliest Upper Paleolithic: New insights from the Levant}},
  Url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.121590798},
  Volume = {98},
  Year = {2001},
  Bdsk-Url-1 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.121590798}}
[3] [doi] Cooley, S., Lucey, N., Kite-Powell, H. & Doney, S. (2011) Nutrition and income from molluscs today imply vulnerability to ocean acidification tomorrow. IN Fish and Fisheries, .no.
    abstract = {{Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human industrial activities are causing a progressive alteration of seawater chemistry, termed ocean acidification, which has decreased seawater pH and carbonate ion concentration markedly since the Industrial Revolution. Many marine organisms, like molluscs and corals, build hard shells and skeletons using carbonate ions, and they exhibit negative overall responses to ocean acidification. This adds to other chronic and acute environmental pressures and promotes shifts away from calcifier-rich communities. In this study, we examine the possible implications of ocean acidification on mollusc harvests worldwide by examining present production, consumption and export and by relating those data to present and future surface ocean chemistry forecast by a coupled climate-ocean model (Community Climate System 3.1; CCSM3). We identify the 'transition decade' when future ocean chemistry will distinctly differ from that of today (2010), and when mollusc harvest levels similar to those of the present cannot be guaranteed if present ocean chemistry is a significant determinant of today's mollusc production. We assess nations' vulnerability to ocean acidification-driven decreases in mollusc harvests by comparing nutritional and economic dependences on mollusc harvests, overall societal adaptability, and the amount of time until the transition decade. Projected transition decades for individual countries will occur 10–50 years after 2010. Countries with low adaptability, high nutritional or economic dependence on molluscs, rapidly approaching transition decades or rapidly growing populations will therefore be most vulnerable to ocean acidification-driven mollusc harvest decreases. These transition decades suggest how soon nations should implement strategies, such as increased aquaculture of resilient species, to help maintain current per capita mollusc harvests.}},
    author = {Cooley, Sarah R. and Lucey, Noelle and Kite-Powell, Hauke and Doney, Scott C.},
    citeulike-article-id = {10139546},
    citeulike-linkout-0 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00424.x},
    doi = {10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00424.x},
    journal = {Fish and Fisheries},
    keywords = {acidification, change, climate},
    pages = {no},
    posted-at = {2011-12-18 05:20:52},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {Blackwell Publishing Ltd},
    title = {{Nutrition and income from molluscs today imply vulnerability to ocean acidification tomorrow}},
    url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00424.x},
    year = {2011}
[4] Ponder & Lindberg (2008) Phylogeny and evolution of the Mollusca Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press.
  Address = {Berkeley and Los Angeles},
  Citeulike-Article-Id = {10137583},
  Date-Added = {2011-12-17 20:50:27 +0000},
  Date-Modified = {2011-12-17 20:52:47 +0000},
  Author = {Ponder, W. F. and Lindberg, D. R.},
  Keywords = {mollusca},
  Posted-At = {2011-12-17 20:33:35},
  Priority = {2},
  Publisher = {University of California Press},
  Title = {{Phylogeny and evolution of the Mollusca}},
  Year = {2008}}
[5] [doi] Fedonkin, Simonetta & Ivantsov (2007) New data on Kimberella, the Vendian mollusc-like organism (White Sea region, Russia): palaeoecological and evolutionary implications. IN Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 286.157-179.
  Abstract = {The taphonomic varieties of over 800 specimens of Kimberella (collected from the Vendian rocks of the White Sea region) provide new evidence of the animal's anatomy such as: shell morphology, proboscis, mantle, possibly respiratory folds and possibly musculature, stomach and glands. Feeding tracks, crawling trails and, presumably, escape structures preserved along with the body imprint provide insights on the mode of locomotion and feeding of this animal. The shield-like dorsal shell reached up to 15 cm in length, 5--7 cm in width, and 3--4 cm in height. The shell was stiff but flexible. Evidence of dorso-ventral musculature and fine transverse ventral musculature suggests arrangement in a metameric pattern. Locomotion may have been by means of peristaltic waves, both within the sediment and over the surface of the sea floor, by means of a foot resembling that of monoplacophorans. Respiration may have been through a circumpedal folded strip (possibly an extension of the mantle). Feeding was accomplished by a retractable proboscis bearing terminal hook-like organs and provided with a pair of structures interpreted here as glands. Whilst feeding, Kimberella moved backwards. The structural complexity of Kimberella poses questions about the time of origin of the triploblastic metazoans.},
  Author = {Fedonkin, M. A. and Simonetta, A. and Ivantsov, A. Y.},
  Date-Added = {2011-12-18 02:23:59 +0000},
  Date-Modified = {2011-12-18 02:24:55 +0000},
  Doi = {10.1144/SP286.12},
  Eprint = {http://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/286/1/157.full.pdf+html},
  Journal = {Geological Society, London, Special Publications},
  Keywords = {mollusca, precambrian},
  Number = {1},
  Pages = {157-179},
  Title = {New data on Kimberella, the Vendian mollusc-like organism (White Sea region, Russia): palaeoecological and evolutionary implications},
  Url = {http://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/286/1/157.abstract},
  Volume = {286},
  Year = {2007},
  Bdsk-Url-1 = {http://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/286/1/157.abstract},
  Bdsk-Url-2 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1144/SP286.12}}
[6] Powell (1979) New Zealand Mollusca: Marine, Land and Freshwater Shells Auckland, Collins.
  Address = {Auckland},
  Author = {Powell, A.W.B.},
  Date-Added = {2011-12-18 07:02:27 +0000},
  Date-Modified = {2011-12-18 07:04:28 +0000},
  Keywords = {New Zealand, Mollusca},
  Publisher = {Collins},
  Pages = {500 (p120)},
  page = {120},
  Title = {New Zealand Mollusca: Marine, Land and Freshwater Shells},
  Year = {1979}}
[7] Spalding, Ravilious & Green (2001) World Atlas of Coral Reefs Berkeley, University of California Press.
  Address = {Berkeley},
  Author = {Spalding, M.D. and Ravilious, C. and Green, E.P. },
  Date-Added = {2011-12-18 16:25:40 +0000},
  Date-Modified = {2011-12-18 16:27:55 +0000},
  Keywords = {coral reef},
  Publisher = {University of California Press},
  Title = {World Atlas of Coral Reefs},
  Year = {2001}}
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