Behind the scenes

Collecting benthic ctenophores

Combjellybrittlestar

(top) The benthic ctenophore uses its mouth to hold on to stalked animals that are attached to the seafloor. (bottom) The brittlestar’s arm tips glow with bioluminescence and fluorescence.

May 20, 2014

Ctenophores, or comb jellies, are typically found in the water column, far above the seafloor. Yet a few species manage to live on the bottom of the ocean. MBARI Scientist Steven Haddock and his colleagues are currently at sea on MBARI’s research vessel Western Flyer, studying ctenophores and other deep-sea animals with ROV Doc Ricketts. Using the ROV’s manipulator arm, they plucked a bouquet of benthic ctenophores at a depth of 2,800 meters. They are interested in sequencing the transcriptomes of these beautiful animals. The researchers also came across brittle stars showing amazingly bright bioluminescence and fluorescence, especially on the tips of their arms.