Bioluminescence and Biodiversity Expedition 2012
September 28-October 3, 2012
Steve Haddock’s research group and their collaborators study deep-sea gelatinous zooplankton (various types of jelly-like animals). Haddock’s research focuses on bioluminescence, biodiversity, and ecology of deep-sea and open-ocean ctenophores, siphonophores, radiolarians, and medusae. In addition to studying the evolutionary relationships of these animals, Haddock is interested in cloning the proteins that enable these jellies to emit light or fluoresce.
On this five-day expedition, scientists will conduct research based on dives performed by the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts and supplemented by blue-water scuba diving and midwater trawling.
The deep ocean is home to a diverse assemblage of gelatinous zooplankton, a large proportion of which remain undescribed. Although many of these jellies are unfamiliar even to marine biologists, they are key to understanding the overall relationships and evolution of animals. Their contribution to biodiversity is also important for evaluating potential large-scale ecosystem changes, and for determining whether jellies are truly “taking over the world.” Many of these invertebrates have unique bio-optical properties such as the ability to produce light or shift their color. The molecular underpinnings of these phenomena provide powerful tools for researchers, and help explain how bio-optical tricks became so widespread in the ocean. Jellies may be despised by some, but these beautiful and bizarre animals are relevant to our daily lives.
On this five-day expedition, scientists will conduct research based on dives performed by the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts and supplemented by blue-water scuba diving and midwater trawling. ROV Doc Ricketts, is capable of collecting minuscule, transparent animals, and will be outfitted with special blue LED lights to image the fluorescence of the animals. Additionally, the blue-water scuba dives and midwater trawling will provide access to shallower and smaller organisms that the ROV cannot observe.
By all accounts, jellyfish are creatures that kill people, eat microbes, grow to tens of meters, filter phytoplankton, take over ecosystems, and live forever. Because of the immense diversity of gelatinous plankton, jelly-like creatures can individually have each of these properties. However this way of looking at them both overstates and underestimates their true diversity. Taxonomically, they are far more varied than a handful of exemplars that are used to represent jellyfish or especially the so-called “true” jellyfish. Ecologically, they are even more adaptable than one would expect by looking only at the conspicuous bloom forming families and species that draw most of the attention. In reality, the most abundant and diverse gelatinous groups in the ocean are not the ones that anyone ever sees.