So many mysteries in the deep

September 30, 2012

After 25 years, you might think we had seen all there is to see here in the deep Pacific Ocean, but today was a good reminder that that is definitely not true! During the first hour of our remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive today, we encountered a very bizarre deep-sea anglerfish from the family Gigantactinidae that we have never filmed before. It had an extremely long lure that was “shaggy” at the tip. Completely amazing!

Today was the first time we have ever filmed this species of Gigantactis (whipnose anglerfish) with MBARI's ROVs. The natural orientation for this fish is what we might consider upside down.

Today was the first time we have ever filmed this species of Gigantactis (whipnose anglerfish) with MBARI’s ROVs. The natural orientation for this fish is what we might consider upside down.


The lure is very long and has a bioluminescent tip.

The lure is very long and has a bioluminescent tip.


The tip of this anglerfish's lure is

The tip of this anglerfish’s lure is “shaggy.” Compare this midwater anglerfish to a benthic anglerfish we recently filmed for the first time.

I work in the video lab, and my job is to watch the ROV videos and annotate the animals and habitat that we see during MBARI dive missions. I have been working at MBARI for 16 years, yet today we observed a second fish I have never seen before. Plus, we caught another mystery mollusc. The mystery mollusc is an unusual new midwater species of sea slug that is in the process of being described.

Today’s dive site is the farthest offshore that we are planning to go. During our dive, Steve Haddock noticed that our longitude was reading 123° 45′ (1-2-3-4-5…). We managed to fit in two shorter dives today, and now the scientists are very busy working with two loads of specimens from the sample containers on the ROV.

This cydippid exhibits brilliant blue bioluminescence.

This cydippid exhibits brilliant blue bioluminescence.


The hatchetfish Argyropelecus is another animal that luminesces.


This tomopterid worm produces yellow bioluminescence.

This tomopterid worm produces yellow bioluminescence.

We collected several superstars in the bioluminescent realm, such as Tomopteris (a midwater worm),Sternoptyx (silver dollar hatchetfish), Argyropelecus (hatchetfish), and several very bright ctenophores. Steve Haddock and Meghan Powers will photograph the light patterns of these specimens in the darkroom onboard the ship. They will also measure the spectrum (wavelength) of the light emissions. Steve and Meghan are trying to understand the biochemistry behind the variety of ways deep-sea organisms are able to create light.

Blue light shines from photophores under the hatchetfish's eye and near its tail. In the lab, the animals are kept under red light because they are not used to white light and it may affect their bioluminescent capabilities.

Blue light shines from photophores under the hatchetfish’s eye and near its tail. In the lab, the animals are kept under red light because they are not used to white light and it may affect their bioluminescent capabilities.

As you can tell, there is still much to learn about the animals living deep in Monterey Canyon, and in the global ocean. We have only just begun to scratch the surface. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Today's dive location.

Today’s dive location.

—Kyra Schlining