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Midwater research

Bioluminescence and molecular biology of zooplankton
Project Manager/Lead Scientist: Steve Haddock

The midwater environment is home to some of the most abundant organisms on earth. However, in many cases, the identities and relationships of these creatures are unknown. With the midwater lab team and George Matsumoto, we have made progress in the past few years using genetic information to answer questions which are not readily addressed by morphological features. 

We are presently conducting molecular phylogenetic studies involving ctenophores, siphonophores, narcomedusae, radiolarians, and pelagic molluscs. Surprising and taxonomically important (that is, at family level) discoveries have already been made. We will continue this work toward understanding the inhabitants of the deep-sea. Without accurate knowledge of their identities and relationships, we cannot begin to understand their ecology and contributions to deep-ocean processes.

Most midwater organisms are bioluminescent, and we are also investigating the molecular and chemical basis of bioluminescent and fluorescent proteins.  We will also begin screening cDNA libraries of more taxonomically distant species and investigate the bioluminescence of larvaceans—an abundant but little-studied group of zooplankton.