Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 bioluminescence and biodiversity expedition

Day 3 – 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.

The lure is very long and has a bioluminescent tip.

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.

Left: This cydippid exhibits brilliant blue bioluminescence.
Right: The hatchetfish Argyropelecus is another animal that luminesces.
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.

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.

— Kyra Schlining

Today's dive location.
Previous log Next log


Day 6 Day 6
October 3, 2012
Light's out, it's a wrap

Day 5 Day 5
October 2, 2012
Best laid plans

Day 4 Day 4
October 1, 2012
Nocturnal nature

Day 3 Day 3
September 30, 2012
So many mysteries in the deep

Day 2 Day 2
September 29, 2012
National Geographic crew records the expedition

Day 1 Day 1
September 28, 2012
First day of diving


R/V Western Flyer

The R/V Western Flyer is a small water-plane area twin hull (SWATH) oceanographic research vessel measuring 35.6 meters long and 16.2 meters wide. It was designed and constructed for MBARI to serve as the support vessel for ROV operations. Her missions include the Monterey Bay as well as extended cruises to Hawaii, Gulf of California, and the Pacific Northwest.

ROV Doc Ricketts

ROV Doc Ricketts is MBARI's next generation ROV. The system breaks new ground in providing an integrated unmanned submersible research platform, with many powerful features providing efficient, reliable, and precise sampling and data collection in a wide range of missions.

Detritus sampler

Detritus samplers are large plexiglass containers with lids that can be controlled by the pilot of the ROV and gently closed once an organism is trapped inside.

High frequency suction sampler

This sampler acts like a vacuum cleaner sucking up samples and depositing them into one of the 12 buckets.

Blue-water scuba rig

Blue-water diving is a highly specialized mode of scientific diving that lets researchers observe, experiment, and collect delicate midwater organisms in situ. A weighted line is suspended from the surface for the divers to attach the "trapeze" to which they attach their individual safety lines. Divers are attached to their safety lines by quick releases and a safety diver watches over all of them from near the trapeze throughout the dive.

Two-meter midwater trawl

A midwater trawl collects specimens while being towed behind the Western Flyer. Researchers have the option of trawling with the net open (as seen in this photo) or keeping the net closed until a particular depth is reached and then opening the net. The net can then be closed prior to recovery. This provides scientists with a discrete sample from a particular depth.

 Research Team

Steve Haddock
Chief Scientist

Steve Haddock studies the biodiversity and bio-optical properties of gelatinous zooplankton (various types of jelly-like animals). He uses molecular methods along with morphological traits to examine the relationships of rarely-studied, deep-sea comb jellies and other open-ocean drifters, many of which are new to science. These animals also are able to make their own light (bioluminescence), and Steve is interested in the genes involved in light-production.

Lynne Christianson
Senior Research Technician

Lynne works in Steve Haddock's laboratory. Her research focuses on exploring the biodiversity of marine zooplankton, especially cnidarians and ctenophores (jellies) and phaeodarians (radiolarians). She uses the tools of molecular biology to aid in the identification of these animals, to study their evolutionary relationships, and to investigate the origin and function of bioluminescence and fluorescence. In addition to assisting in the collection and examination of animals from ROV dives, trawls, and blue-water scuba dives, her main job will be cruise logistics. Her goal is to make this cruise as successful as possible for all the scientists on board!

Danielle Haddock
Senior Grants & Accounting Specialist

Danielle has a background in biology and grant writing and handles all external funding at MBARI which includes managing grants, negotiating contracts, monitoring subawards, making people talk to each other... awake still? When she is not enforcing sponsor and MBARI policy, she likes to cook, climb mountains, travel, and hang out with her nephew. She is still floored by the seafaring life.

Kyra Schlining
Senior Research Technician

Kyra is a senior research technician in the video lab at MBARI. Her main responsibility, both on shore and at sea, is to manage and annotate the video footage recorded during MBARI ROV missions. Kyra specializes in identifying deep-sea organisms and describing their behaviors as well as recording observations on habitat and equipment. On the ship she will also assist with processing biological samples and writing up the cruise logs. Kyra's duties in the video lab also include assisting scientists with accessing the data from the video database for publications, editing video from our archives using Final Cut Pro, and presenting current MBARI research to the public, mainly through our sister organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Meghan Powers
Graduate Research Assistant

Meghan is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, working in Steve Haddock's lab. Her research is focused on understanding the molecular biology and evolution of bioluminescence in a variety of deep-sea zooplankton including cephalopods, chaetognaths, and jellyfish.

Warren Francis
Graduate Research Assistant

Warren Francis is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, working in Steve Haddock's lab. His work focuses on understanding the molecular biology and chemistry of polychaetes and other luminous animals, as well as general computational approaches to annotating functions of proteins for non-model organisms.

Freya Goetz
Research Assistant
Brown University

Freya Goetz is the research assistant to Casey Dunn at Brown University. Her interests are very broad and include phylogenetics, invertebrate symbioses, bioluminescence, chaetognath morphology, intertidal ecology, and scientific illustration of marine invertebrates (especially gelatinous zooplankton). She is currently working with Stefan Siebert to characterize gene expression spatially within a siphonophore colony, Nanomia bijuga. She is crossing her fingers for calm seas and quiet wind to maximize blue-water diving possibilities!

Stefan Siebert
Postdoctoral Fellow
Brown University

Stefan Siebert is a postdoctoral fellow in the Dunn lab at Brown University and is interested in the developmental complexity of siphonophores, a group of colonial animals belonging to the Cnidaria. He is looking forward to collecting specimens for descriptive work and for the molecular characterization of colony formation.