“Hi everyone, I’m Jim Cuttlefish, your host for Animals Without Faces, says the big-eyed, tentacled face filling the television screen, “the show where contestants share face time with animals without faces.”

“How about a big wave for today’s contestant — Marina!” he says, welcoming a young woman in SCUBA gear swimming into view next to him, “So Marina, tell us a little about your self.”

“Well, I spend most of my time on the beach.”

“Working on your tan?” Jim winks at the camera.

“No, cleaning up litter, actually.”

“I see. So tell us, Marina, what are you looking for in an invertebrate?”

“I’d like a well-adapted creature, able to acknowledge its evolutionary history and survive the challenges of modern life.”

“Sounds great. Now why don’t we meet our three eligible invertebrates.”

A kelp curtain rises so the audience can see the contestants, but Marina cannot.

“Animal Number One,” she says, “I’m looking for a breath-taking experience. Since most multicellular organisms need oxygen, how do you get yours?”

“I happen to have thin skin, being a sensitive soul,” says Animal Number One, “and I absorb oxygen through it.”

“Sweet,” says Marina. “Animal Number Two, what about yourself?”

“I have gills on my back, shaped like a five-petalled flower.”

“Cool. And Animal Number Three?”

“I also have gills, but I keep mine inside my two shells and pump water past them.”

“Wow, you all leave me breathless,” says Marina. “Now what about food? I love to eat and usually use a knife and fork or sometimes, chopsticks. Animal Number Two, what about you?

“I gladly accept whatever I happen to receive. I have a gentle touch. My hundreds of tiny tubefeet with suction cups on the tips capture tiny floating in the water. More tubefeet carry these to my mouth where I chew them with my five teeth, called Aristotle’s lantern, not to be confused with Aladdin’s lamp, though I would be happy to grant you three wishes.”

The audience laughs.

“I love your sense of humour,” says Marina. And number three, tell me about your relationship to food.”

“I have similar tastes to Animal Number Two, though I use tubes and pumps. I draw water in through my feeding tube. My gills do double duty as a filtering system to remove edible bits from the water. I’d love to share a milkshake with you some time.”

“Thanks for the offer, Animal Number Three. Animal Number One, what would a romantic dinner be like with you?”

“Well, I like meat. My crown of tentacles filled with stinging cells called nematocysts sting and paralyze fish or crustaceans that blunder into me.”

“Sounds a little scary.”

“For humans, it just feels sticky, like Velcro.”

“That could be fun,” says Marina and the crowd murmurs in amusement. And what about protection?”

“Are you going to insist on it?” says Jim, winking at the camera. Marina rolls her eyes.

“Animal Number Three, how do you protect yourself from the elements and predators?

“I have two hard shells for protection and I’m already buried in the sand, so most things don’t get me. But I’d be happy to come out of my shell for you.”

“Nice. Animal Number One, what about you?”

“My tentacles, which I mentioned earlier, can work as a defense. I also have defensive harpoons I fire at unrelated anemones trying to invade my space. To stick to rock, I use a pedal disk. I can pull my tentacles in and hunker down so I don’t present much of a target.”

“You got quite an arsenal. Animal Number Two?”

“Well, for one thing, I have a hard body.”

“That’s good to find.”

“I’m made of plates and I’m covered with small spines, so most animals don’t take much of a bite. If the waves get too strong, I can bury under the sand.”

“Well you all seem to have all the bases covered,” says Marina between breaths of air. “I don’t know which to choose.” She thinks about her answer.

“Alright then, Marina. It’s now time to face the music,” Jim says as the band plays Under the Sea. “Which will it be — Animal Number One, Two, or Three?”

“I’m a sucker for tubefeet,” she says at last, “So I’m going to go for Animal Number Two.”

The studio audience claps, snorts, snaps and gurgles.

“Okay then,” says Jim, “Let’s meet the ones you didn’t choose.”

“Animal Number One was a sea anemone.” The audience applauds.

The kelp curtain rises so Marina can see the stubby green cylinder with a crown of slender tentacles. It says, “You would have been quite a catch, but I know there are other fish in the sea.”

“Animal number three was a clam.” More polite applause.

The camera pulls back with a cutaway view beneath the sand, showing a white oval shell, in a burrow just beneath the surface.

“I was pumped to meet you,” it says, “but I am happy as I am, shellfish as that might sound.”

“Now,” says Jim, “Let’s face the animal without a face you chose — number two… a sand dollar!”

The studio audience claps, snorts, snaps and gurgles.

The fuzzy maroon disk inserts its front end into the sand and waves its tubefeet, acknowledging the applause.

“I feel like a million bucks!” it says.

Jim turns to Marina, “So what do you think of your choice?”

“He’s flatter than I expected.”

“Well, there you have it folks, I’m Jim Cuttlefish, looking forward to more face time with you on Animals without Faces.”