Behind the scenes

Colors in the deep sea


(click for full image) top row: Tiburonia granrojo, Crossota millsae, Halitrephes maasi, Poeobius meseres, bottom row: Lilyopsis fluoracantha, Colobonema sericeum, Solmissus sp., Arctapodema sp.

May 27, 2014

Far below the ocean’s surface, sunlight does not reach the deep sea. But many deep-sea animals display an astonishing array of vibrant colors when they are illuminated by the bright lights on MBARI’s remotely operated vehicles. The digestive organs of some jellies contain red or orange pigments that mask the blue light from glowing animals they have eaten. Other animals take on the coloration of their prey, giving scientists an insight into what they eat. Some animals glow green due to fluorescent pigments in their bodies. Others display a rainbow of colors as light diffracts through transparent tissue. During a recent Western Flyer expedition, Steve Haddock and his colleagues witnessed animals of many colors.