Sorry to interrupt, but we and our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute thought you should know that you share a planet with the marvelous mollusk known as the panda bear sea angel:

The panda bear sea angel Notobranchaea macdonaldi is an open-ocean snail-relative known as a pteropod, or “wing-foot”. Many pteropods have some form of shell (those are often known as “sea butterflies”)—sea angels do not.


Sea angel pteropods are carnivorous hunters, tracking down sea butterflies and ensnaring them using hidden tentacles tucked away inside their head. As with so many adorable sea creatures, for sea angels, the devil is in the details.

When it comes to deep-sea camo, these jellies …

When it comes to deep-sea camo, these jellies make us red with envy! 

Animals that live in the deep waters of the ocean use a cunning way to camouflage themselves and hide from both their predators and prey: The color red.

At the surface of the ocean, we see a red animal because red light is being reflected off it, but in the deep sea, the color red actually appears black. This happens because red has the longest wavelength in the visible light spectrum, and therefore the least amount of energy to penetrate through the water. Once you’ve traveled deep enough below the surface, the amount of red light decreases so that anything with the color red becomes invisible in the darkness. 

This red paper lantern jelly, Pandea rubra, and its intense crimson disguise was spotted, illuminated, and recorded by our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). After recording, their remotely operated vehicle turned away, and as their lights disappeared, the jelly slipped quietly back into invisibility.

mbari-blog: Why do so many marine animals ha…


Why do so many marine animals have bright fluorescent pigments?

Fluorescence is a process where high-energy light temporarily excites electrons in a molecule. When the molecule relaxes, the energy is re-emitted as a lower-energy photon with a longer wavelength. For example, blue or violet light is often used to excite green, yellow, or red fluorescent emission. Fluorescence is a passive physical property of many molecules, and unlike bioluminescence, it is not something that animals can actively turn on and off. ⁠

To test how animals might use fluorescence we conducted predator-prey experiments with the flower-hat jellyfish. We found that the fluorescent tentacle tips, when excited by ambient blue light from the environment, were an irresistible attractant to potential prey. We also found evidence for fluorescent structures in a range of other predators.

For this video, we filmed the fluorescence of animals by shining a blue light on them and putting a yellow filter in front of the lens. The filter blocks out the excitation light but lets the fluorescent light be recorded. You can try it at home with a piece of yellow plastic and a blue LED flashlight. You might be surprised by what you find!

Be like these animals and just go with the fluo

mbari-blog: The giant ostracod may look like a…


The giant ostracod may look like a swimming orange ping-pong ball, but it’s actually a shrimp-like animal that swims by rowing its long, feathery antennae!


Ostracods are a class of crustaceans, sometimes known as seed shrimp. The deep-sea giant ostracod, Gigantocypris, is 30 times bigger than regular ostracods. Its body resembles a shrimp but is completely encased within a clamshell-like carapace. It lives in the midwater and is nearly neutrally buoyant. It swims by rowing its long, feathery antennae, which are also used for feeding. Its eyes are enormous and shaped like parabolic mirrors to help spot bioluminescent prey in the dark ocean depths. It broods its embryos inside the carapace until they are quite large and well-developed.⁠

Oh my giant ostracod-ness!

mbari-blog: To celebrate Halloween, we’re brin…


To celebrate Halloween, we’re bringing you some ghostly critters from the deep!


Ghostshark and ratfish are common names used for a chimaera, a group of unusual fishes which, despite the common name, isn’t really a shark at all! Their skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. 


The males have prominent reproductive features called claspers, and the females lay eggs in leathery cases. These characteristics make sharks and rays their closest living relatives, but about 400 million years ago they branched off the evolutionary tree from those groups, remaining isolated ever since.


Most species have a venomous spine in front of their dorsal fin. One of the oldest and yet least known groups of fishes alive today, ghost sharks are deep-dwelling and rarely seen alive. They can be found at depths to 2,600 meters (8,500 feet).


mbari-blog: Pycnogonids are deep-sea animals r…


Pycnogonids are deep-sea animals related to the spiders we see on land, so they are often called “sea spiders.” They are fairly common in tide pools, but these intertidal species are typically small and hard to see. In contrast, deep-sea pycnogonids can have long legs that grow to over 50 cm (20 inches) across! 

At least two species of the Colossendeis group have been observed by MBARI remotely operated vehicles deep in Monterey Canyon. These spiders are quite mobile and can walk or swim using their eight legs. Pycnogonids are “suctorial” predators—most species feed by sucking the bodily fluids from other marine animals. They feed primarily on anemones, such as the pom-pom anemone, Liponema sp. 

Sea spiders, or sea VAMPIRES?! 😱🌊🕷🧛

We don’t have much else to say except: L…

We don’t have much else to say except: Look at this inkredible Galiteuthis glass squid!! 😍🦑

OK, no wait, here’s some more to say: The cranchiid squid, a.k.a glass squid like this Galiteuthis sp., often have light-producing organs called photophores around their eyes. Cephalopod photophores can be a simple group of light-producing (“photogenic”) cells, or they can be quite complex, with photogenic cells surrounded by reflectors, lenses, light guides, color filters and muscles.

Complex photophores are often able to actively adjust the color, intensity and angular distribution of the light they produce. Scientists believe that these photophores around the eyes provide counter-illumination, where the organ produces light to cancel out the shadow cast by the squid’s eyeballs in the faint deep-sea light.

In the vast midwater of the deep sea, where there’s nowhere to hide and your shadow is your enemy, glass squid photophores make light work out of camouflage.

Hula-la! 😍

Hula-la! 😍

This crystalline creature is a hula skirt siphonophore (Physophora hydrostatica), and is actually made up of many individual animals called zooids, each with a different part to play. The finger-like zooids, colored with beautiful tinges of orange and violet, attach at the base of the swimming bell-shaped zooids, and house relatively potent stinging cells that can impart a strong sting to a potential predator or unsuspecting prey 😈🍴

Thanks to our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute for the stunning image!

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