Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2013 midwater ecology cruise

Day 3 – Here's looking at you!
March 24, 2013

Today we moved to a deeper site in Monterey Canyon (about 2,800 meters or 9,100 feet). First, we collected small shrimp-like animals called mysids with the Midwater Respirometry System (MRS). The MRS is designed to measure the respiration of animals at depth. Many deep-sea animals don't even survive when brought to the surface, so this is often the only way we can learn about how much oxygen they consume. We filled five samplers on the MRS with mysids, one sampler with an eelpout, and left two of the samplers empty as controls for the experiment. The MRS was hung on the mooring at 2,700 meters (8,800 feet) depth and we will return tomorrow to recover it and download the respirometry data.

The MRS was attached to the mooring, then the pilots backed away from the mooring.

After deploying the MRS, we ascended to look for more target animals. We found many squids including Stigmatoteuthis dofleini, Chiroteuthis calyx, Octopoteuthis deletron, and Galiteuthis phyllura. At the risk of sounding like a jaded marine biologist that has seen more than her fair share of cool cephalopods, I'm going to say that by far the coolest thing we saw today was a rare fish called the black swallower. Chiasmodon niger is a fish that can literally eat something that is larger than itself. Yes, I said LARGER THAN ITSELF! As you can see in this awesome frame grab, its mouth is quite large, with sizable teeth that allow it to impale prey and engulf it whole. Its stomach can distend to accommodate its large prey. Incidentally, Rob Sherlock found out that these teeth are quite sharp and we're waiting for results of the toxicity experiment.

Chiasmodon niger can eat prey larger than itself. This specimen is about 15 centimeters long.

— Susan von Thun

A closeup image of Taonius in a shipboard tank. Photo by Kat Bolstad.

Of all the squids we've seen so far—and there have been many—surely the cranchiids, the "glass" squids, are some of the most spectacular. Their bodies are entirely transparent most of the time, showing off pulsing blue hemolymph (blood) and the narrow iridescent column of the digestive gland, but they can also become a dark intense red, or fill the mantle with ink to change their appearance completely. Their eyes are relatively enormous and also iridescent, and they glow with strange and spectacular-looking light organs. For someone like me, whose work revolves around preserved museum specimens, it can be difficult to remember what these animals look like in their natural habitat. They are beautiful and so very alien, and the condition in which I usually see them bears very little resemblance to what we're seeing out here. Each time we encounter one, I feel I could watch it for hours, but there are always more squid to see. Hopefully a few of these still photos capture their essence for you, and for me once I am back at my desk in Auckland, sorting out their relatives' systematics by looking at much-less-magical specimens in dusty jars.

Galiteuthis in the shipboard tank. Photo by Kat Bolstad.
A closeup image of Galiteuthis in the shipboard tank. Photo by Kat Bolstad.

— Kat Bolstad

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Day 7 Day 7 - Patience and the money shot
March 28, 2013
How do we define a species? And how can we tell which individuals belong to a given species? Those may seem like simple questions, but in fact, sometimes they are not.

Day 6 Day 6 - Finally, a vampire squid (or two)!
March 27, 2013
For those of you who have been following the midwater lab’s blogs over the last couple of years, you know that one of our target animals is the vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis.

Day 5 Day 5 - "Let's descend fast to the bottom – wait, no STOP!!!!"
March 26, 2013
MBARI has some great pilots - we certainly put them to the test today with: "Let's go down fast... Wait.... Stop...Okay, keep going...Wait... "

Day 4 Day 4 - Collecting Octopoteuthis deletron.
March 25, 2013
Today we collected two Octopoteuthis deletron.

Day 3 Day 3 - Here's looking at you!
March 24, 2013
It was a great day today as we filled up the MRS and made some collections.

Day 2 Day 2 - Cephalopod Day
March 23, 2013
Cephalopods! The ROV Doc Ricketts got into the water today where we completed our midwater transects and found some animals.

day one Day 1 - Setting Sail
March 22, 2013
Alicia Bitondo sorting through the trawl specimens for squid. The wind was high enough to keep us from collecting with the ROV, but not with the trawl net!


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.

Midwater respirometry system (MRS)

The MRS conducts oxygen consumption rate measurements in situ gauging the metabolism of animals without subjecting them to the stresses of transport to the surface. MRS has been modified to operate in deeper water with an expanded capacity, enabling respiration studies on animals that live deeper than 1,250 meters.

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.


The CTDO is mounted on the ROV and takes in situ measurements of environmental parameters such as conductivity, temperature, depth, and oxygen concentration.

High frequency suction sampler

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

 Research Team

bruce robison Bruce Robison
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Bruce Robison's research is focused on the biology and ecology of deep-sea animals, particularly those that inhabit the oceanic water column. He pioneered the use of undersea vehicles for these studies and he led the first team of scientists trained as research submersible pilots. At MBARI, his research group has focused on the development of remotely operated vehicles as platforms for deep-sea science.

kim reisenbichler Kim Reisenbichler
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Kim's general area of interest is the study of midwater and deep sea animals. He has developed many tools and techniques to observe, manipulate, and collect these organisms, and to maintain the animals in the lab.

rob sherlock Rob Sherlock
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Rob is interested in the ecology of midwater invertebrates. He has worked in the Robison lab and been involved with the Midwater Time Series since he came to MBARI in 1996, identifying and quantifying mesopelagic animals and the changes in that community over time and depth and relative to other physical factors.

kris walz Kris Walz
Research Assistant, MBARI

Kris works with the midwater ecology group, analyzing ROV video transects between 50 and 1,000 meters in depth to identify biological organisms from all taxonomic levels. Kris started working at MBARI in 1996 after finishing her master's degree at University of California, Santa Cruz. She's looking forward to going to sea this month to collect video transects and to search for deep-sea lobster larvae from the family Polychelidae.

susan von thun Susan von Thun
Research Technician, MBARI

Susan works in the MBARI video lab, where her primary responsibility is to watch video taken with MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and make observations about the organisms, behaviors, equipment, and geological features that she sees. While annotating video, she's become adept at identifying numerous deep-sea organisms, specializing in midwater organisms. She works closely with the midwater ecology group and the bioluminescence lab to expand her knowledge of the fish, jellies, cephalopods, and other groups in the midwater.

henk-jan hoving Henk-Jan Hoving
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Henk-Jan is a postdoc in the midwater ecology group of Bruce Robison, investigating the life history strategies of pelagic cephalopods. Cephalopods have one reproductive cycle after which they die. Henk-Jan is interested in how long deep-sea cephalopods live, and how different species shape their reproductive strategies to optimize their single reproductive event.

Alicia Bitondo
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Alicia is an aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where she specializes in the care and display of cephalopods and jellies. She is also a graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Labs, where she where she is focusing on the developmental changes in the ecology and morphology of midwater cephalopods.

Kat Bolstad
Auckland University of Technology

Kat is a lecturer in the Earth & Oceanic Sciences Research Institute at AUT (New Zealand), where she leads a cephalopod research group, focusing largely on systematics of deep-water Pacific species. She is also interested in ecology of and vision in deep-water squids, and is a science moderator on the cephalopod enthusiast website

Stephanie Bush
Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution

Stephanie is currently working in the lab of Karen Osborn at the National Museum of Natural History. She is broadly interested in marine organismal ecology, and her current research explores the connectivity between populations of planktonic animals and how it relates to speciation and biodiversity in the open ocean. During this expedition, she will be collecting pteropods, a group of midwater snails with reduced or absent shells and a pair of wings that propel them through the water column.

Chris Payne
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Chris has been an aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for two years. His focus is mainly on the husbandry and rearing of syngnathids—the family of fish that includes seahorses, pipefishes, and leafy and weedy sea dragons—though he also works with jellyfish and cephalopods.