Archive for August, 2015


deeply weird

11870643_885828668158338_5476581250463218594_ntoday’s theme is gelatinous octopuses.  i never expected us to see any of these guys, let alone enough to make a ‘theme’, but over the past few days we’ve seen three: the Cirrothauma above, and two of the bolitaenids pictured below.  i’ll tell you a little about them, as they are pretty remarkable.  Cirrothauma murrayi (above) is a blind, finned octopus that seems to live in deep seas around the world; this one was 2.6 km below the surface when we saw him.  (i say ‘him’ because he appeared to have a hectocotylus [modified reproductive arm found only in males]).  mbari encountered another, much smaller specimen on a cruise this past july so it will be very interesting to see whether they are different growth stages of the same species.

the second taxon is a bolitaenid–we think probably Japetella diaphana (lovely name) but it’s pretty hard to tell the two species in this family apart (so it could be Bolitaena pygmaea); you almost have to have them side by side to compare (the difference is in the size of the eyes and the length of the eye stalks on which they are set out from the brain).  this one was found at 690 m.  it’s an amazing animal to watch because, in addition to being able to transition from transparent to red (or anything in between), it also has iridescent cells (iridophores–you can see them below in the funnel, under the eye) set throughout its body that make it sparkle blue and green depending on the light.  when mature, it also develops a large ring-shaped light organ around the beak (thought to play a role in reproduction/communication), which i would love to see (neither of our specimens had it yet).

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here come the squid

IMGP0386-1day 4 out with mbari.  this guy is one of my absolute favorites to observe: Taonius borealis.  a small cousin of the colossal squid (same family, cranchiidae, or ‘glass’ squids), it’s one of our best insights into what the colossal squid might look like alive, and what it looks like is, quite simply, remarkable.  almost every part of the body is completely transparent, with the exception of a few viscera and the eyes, the silhouettes of which are masked from underneath by the ink sac and very large light organs on the eyes.  the squid can change from transparent to dark red within in a split second and has a wide range of appearances in between, with incredibly fine control over each individual pigment cell (chromatophore) on its body.  this one was at about 468 m when we found him, hanging out in the classic ‘cockatoo’ pose (see images and video link here).

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holy mola!

DSC_0400-1i know, the photo is not that spectacular… but we were treated to a Mola mola (ocean sunfish) sighting this morning under rather difficult conditions to capture well.  all was grey and the fish (two of them actually, surrounding by ogling albatrosses) were about 50 m from the boat.  they were small by mola standards, maybe a metre from fin tip to fin tip, meandering around in their strange sideways fashion, occasionally poking an eye out of the water to stare back at us, flapping their fins awkwardly and just generally looking like a pretty unlikely animal.  in addition to the black-footed albatross, some ?shearwaters (positive ID to follow) and northern fulmars were dabbling nearby.

tomorrow, photos of undersea creatures!

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whale, whale, whale

DSC_0289-1what have we here?  i’m back at sea!  i’m out on mbari‘s western flyer once more, ready for a week of deep-sea squiddy goodness.  we’re just getting ready to put doc ricketts into the water, but already we’ve seen some spectacular wildlife: the summer-resident humpback whales (plus otters, dolphins, sealions and murres) put on quite a show to send us out to sea!  more soon from far, far below the waves…

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