Cystisoma magna isn't staring. They just don't have eyelids. 👀
While these deep-sea amphipods are highly transparent and essentially invisible in the dark midnight zone, they are quite visible when side-lit by the bright lights of our ROVs.
Cystisoma has a complex visual system. They have a curtain-like retina, with widely separated structures called rhabdoms. Rhabdoms are transparent, crystalline receptive structures found in the compound eyes of arthropods (which includes insects, arachnids, and crustaceans). Incoming rays of light pass through a transparent cone, which acts to converge the rays onto the tip of the rhabdom. This adaptation of the eyes makes them minimally visible to potential predators.
We’d like to officially introduce our newest unofficial video series—epic band names brought to you by the deep sea: Whelk on a whalebone.
Dead whales that sink to the seafloor provide a feast for deep-sea animals that can last for years. MBARI researchers have studied various “whale falls” throughout the years and observed that during the first few months after the carcass reaches the seafloor, a few species of scavenging animals, including sharks, hagfish, rattails, and crabs, remove flesh from the whale bones.
As the flesh disappears, a more diverse collection of animals appears, including some that feed on whale bones or on seafloor bacteria and predators that hunt animals attracted to the carcass. Researchers have noted, however, that Monterey whale-fall communities do not seem to progress through a well-defined or consistent series of stages, as other researchers have observed at other sites. In fact, each of these whale falls has followed a different sequence of community development, involving different key species.
The nosy neighbors of the deep sea.
These curious deep-water fish are commonly known as rattails or grenadiers. Some rattail species can grow to be two meters (over six feet) in length and live for more than 70 years. They typically prey on small fish, krill, prawns, amphipods, and cephalopods. In addition to their large eyes adapted to detect bioluminescent prey, rattails can also sense a variety of other food sources using sensory structures on their heads. They communicate with a swim bladder, which makes a drumming sound. Although we know little about this deep-water, long-lived species, we do know that they grow very slowly and may not reproduce until they are 30 or 40 years old.
To mark International Women in Engineering Day, we’re celebrating the achievements of MBARI engineer Alana Sherman. #WomenInEngineeringDay
With an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in bioengineering, the Chicago native is always up for a challenge. Interested in developing tools to solve complex challenges, she came to MBARI to tackle the problem of ocean access. Today, she leads MBARI’s electrical engineering group, where she develops innovative technologies and underwater vehicles that are transforming how we access and study the ocean. She manages the team of electrical engineers as they work together with scientists to build and deploy cutting-edge ocean technology.
Alana works with various teams to enable their study of the ocean—from atoms to ecosystems. In addition to designing, building, and testing new instruments for marine science, she goes out to sea to test, deploy, and service MBARI’s research equipment. She was a pivotal member of the team that developed the Benthic Rover. About the size of a small car, this autonomous rover travels across the muddy seafloor taking photos and measuring how much oxygen bottom-dwelling animals and microbes are using over time. Information gathered by this rover has helped scientists understand how carbon cycles from the surface to the seafloor—data fundamental to understanding the impacts of climate change on the ocean. Alana, the mother of two young boys, often jokes that the rover was her first child.
According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, 49 percent of all professional and technical workers are women, but just 15 percent of the engineering workforce is made up of women. Highlighting women’s achievements in a traditionally male-dominated field reminds us how important it is to include a variety of perspectives and experiences in STEM fields. The more diverse a group of people designing new technology, the more inclusive and innovative those tools will become. (Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium). #INWED22
The sheer expanse of the deep sea and the technological challenges of working in an extreme environment make deep-water ecosystems difficult to study. By building on 25 years of engineering innovation, MBARI has developed a solution for long-term monitoring of the abyssal seafloor: Benthic Rover II.
About the size of a small car, Benthic Rover II travels across the muddy seafloor taking photos and measuring how much oxygen bottom-dwelling animals and microbes are using over time. This autonomous robotic rover has been continuously operational at Station M, an MBARI research site located 225 kilometers (140 miles) off the coast of central California and 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) below the ocean’s surface. The information gathered by Benthic Rover II at Station M has helped scientists understand how carbon cycles from the surface to the seafloor—data fundamental to understanding the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
The success of Benthic Rover II and MBARI’s ongoing work at Station M highlight how persistent platforms and long-term observations can further our understanding of the largest living space on Earth. With more companies looking to extract mineral resources from the deep seafloor, these data also give valuable insights into the baseline conditions in areas under consideration for industrial development or deep-sea mining. The ocean is a crucial component in Earth’s carbon cycle and climate. As we face a changing climate, our understanding of how carbon flows between the ocean’s sunlit surface and its dark depths is more important than ever.
Swimming on a full stomach.
This jellyfish, Halitrephes sp., was captured on camera with a full stomach (most likely krill). The video was taken by cameras mounted on MBARI's remotely operated vehicle Ventana at 392 meters (about 1,300 feet deep). Its bell can reach up to 10 centimeters (four inches) wide.
This is not your average anemone!
Pom-pom anemones, Liponema brevicorne, are amazing and adaptable invertebrates. This anemone resembles an unusual tentacle-covered dome, unlike the more common stalked column body associated with many other anemones. Even within the unique body shape, there is variability. Sometimes it is observed in a low, deflated position, while other times, it is puffy with tentacles extended. #WeirdAndWonderful
I think we can all agree that Cephalopod Week always goes way too fast.
Galiteuthis phyllura, also known as the cockatoo squid, lives in the North Pacific from 200 to over 1,000 meters (656 to 3,280 feet) deep. It has a transparent body and photophores, or light organs, under it eyes. We often encounter this species hanging horizontally in the water column with its arms above its head, as we did here with ROV Doc Ricketts. #CephalopodWeek
When you’re just casually rolling through Cephalopod Week, and bump into your favorite flappy ceph! 🤩
MBARI’s robotic submersibles often spot this little octopus resting on the mud, its orange body resembling a flat, fluffy pancake. When startled by a predator, a flapjack octopus perks up and swims to safety by flapping its stubby fins, pulsing its webbed arms, pushing water through its funnel for jet propulsion—or all three at once. When the coast is clear, it stretches its webbed arms and parachutes back to the seafloor.
Flapjack octopuses (Opisthoteuthis spp.) can grow up to 20 centimeters (nearly eight inches) across. They're typically found at depths between 130 and 2,350 meters (430 and 7,710 feet) where they feed on small worms, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. #cephalopodweek
Research programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) encompass the entire ocean, from the surface waters to the deep seafloor, and from the coastal zone to the open sea. The need to understand the ocean in all its complexity and variability drives MBARI's research and development efforts.