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Bioluminescence Expedition

Alex Lapides and Mari Figueroa in the control room of the Western Flyer. Photo by Lynne Christianson

Bioluminescence Expedition

This ctenophore, Beroe forskalii, is capable of displaying bright bioluminescence when disturbed. But the rainbow colors seen here are an effect produced from diffraction of light on the jelly’s comb rows. Photo by Steve Haddock
MBARI Expedition #467

Expedition goal: During this cruise, we will conduct ROV and scuba dives to aid our research into the biochemical, physiological, and genetic adaptations that midwater organisms have evolved to help them survive and diversify in the deep sea.

Expedition dates: July 9- 17, 2019

Ship: R/V Western Flyer

Research technology:  ROV Doc Ricketts

Expedition chief scientist: Steven Haddock

For the next eight days, the MBARI Bioluminescence Lab, led by Steve Haddock, will be at sea on the research vessel Western Flyer, exploring the organisms that inhabit the midwater of the Monterey Bay and beyond. We will use remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts, along with blue-water scuba diving by several members of our team, to observe and collect organisms from the shallow surface waters to the seafloor.

Most organisms in the ocean are bioluminescent, meaning they make their own light from a chemical reaction. We will use our low-light camera on the ROV for observing and recording bioluminescent behavior in the wild, especially bioluminescence from gelatinous organisms such as ctenophores, medusae, and siphonophores. The biochemical mechanisms that different organisms use to produce their light is part of our research under the MBARI Biodiversity and Biooptics of Zooplankton Project. Also as part of that project, we will look at the genetic diversity of several midwater organisms. Our goal is to understand how organisms of different species are related to one another, and how the genetics of a single species varies within a population.

Of particular interest to many of us are ctenophores, also known as comb jellies. Not only are most comb jellies bioluminescent, but various species can be found from the (relatively) warm surface waters with low hydrostatic pressure, all the way down to the low temperature, high-pressure environment of the deep seafloor. How different species of ctenophores have evolved to live and thrive under great differences in pressure and temperature is a focus of investigation for our NSF-funded DEEPC Project (DEEPC stands for “Diversity, Ecology, and EcoPhysiology of Ctenophores”).

About Biodiversity and Biooptics 2019 Expedition

July 9-17, 2019 – The Bioluminescence Lab will conduct ROV and scuba dives to study the biochemical, physiological, and genetic adaptations that midwater organisms have evolved to survive and diversify in the deep sea.