Welcome back to The Surface Interval!
We’re gathering articles from across the internet to promote stories of ocean optimism, environmental intrigue, or newsworthy content to keep you informed of what’s happening in the world of marine biology. To kick off this entry of The Surface Interval, let’s dive in to take a look at three articles that caught our eye this week.
Seeing Stars in the Deep Sea
Sea stars are arguably one of the most fascinating creatures to ever crawl the ocean floor. Rather than pumping blood through their bodies, they have what’s known as a “water vascular system,” which continually pumps seawater to their suction-cupped arms. But just when we thought sea star anatomy couldn’t get any more fascinating, a team of scientists has discovered that some species of deep-sea stars possess photoreceptive eyes at the tip of each arm. While the knowledge of sea stars having eyes on the tips of their arms is itself not a new discovery, the fact that deep-sea species have eyes is particularly interesting, evolutionarily speaking. As the article from the New York Times explains, “most fish and crustaceans (in the deep sea) lose their eyes and rely on other senses.” Simply put, there’s no apparent need to expend energy trying to interpret visual information, as the deep sea is so obviously void of light. The exception remains, however, for creatures with bioluminescence, or the ability to create their own light. Click here to navigate your way through the dark world of abyssal zone sea stars. (And while you’re at it – don’t call them “starfish,” ahem…New York Times… – fish are vertebrates, and sea stars are invertebrates; a substantial taxonomic differentiation – this is science, after all.) Image Credit: Olga Zimina, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources
Speaking of highly evolved marine organisms, cuttlefish continue to surprise scientists with their abilities to camouflage at a moment’s notice. Using highly specialized light-reflecting skin cells called “chromatophores,” Cuttlefish are incredibly adept when it comes to flaring their skin through a variety of chromatic variations to seamlessly blend into their surroundings.
Recently, however, studies have shown that cuttlefish can lock their papillae – the structures under their skin which allow them to mimic the texture of their surroundings – in place for extended periods of time.
I once encountered a large adult cuttlefish (approximately the size of an American football) while diving in Indonesia and proceeded to watch it disappear right before my eyes as it seamlessly matched both the texture and the color of a colony of soft coral just a few feet away. I still get goosebumps thinking about how incredible the experience was to witness. Well played, cuttlefish – well played. Image Credit: Paloma T. Gonzalez-Bellido.
Exploring the Unknown
And last but certainly not least, scientists are now pushing into previously unexplored ecosystems thanks to incredible advances in modern technology, and the resulting photographs of invertebrate life below are ASTONISHING. I don’t use that word lightly, but it’s entirely likely that many of the species seen during this voyage were undescribed. To anyone who doesn’t believe that the ocean is truly the last unexplored frontier, take a look at these photographs: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/10/first-images-of-creatures-from-antarctic-depths-revealed Photograph: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace
What interesting Marine Biology news have you seen bobbing around lately? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title “The Surface Interval” & let’s nerd-out together. Until then, look at the horizon, take a giant stride forward, and dive, dive, dive!
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