Siphonophores (pronounced “sigh-fawn-oh-fours”) are colonial creatures made up of specialized segments that work together as one. Scientists have described some 175 siphonophore species. Most follow a similar body plan—a gas-filled float provides buoyancy, swimming bells propel the colony, and a central stem bears specialized parts for feeding, defense, and reproduction. Most siphonophores live far from the seafloor and call the endless expanse of the ocean’s midwater zone their home.
Because their delicate bodies can break apart at the slightest touch, siphonophores are hard to study. Thankfully, MBARI’s remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) give scientists the opportunity to get a close-up look at deep-sea siphonophores without damaging them. Our skilled pilots carefully maneuver the ROV to record stunning video of these delicate drifters. These observations complement specimens we gingerly collect with samplers on the ROV.
We’ve discovered a rainbow of siphonophores in the depths of Monterey Bay and beyond, like this stunningly scarlet species, Marrus claudanielis, described by MBARI researchers and their collaborators in 2005.