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Have you ever wondered how animals communicate, find food, mates and defend themselves in complete darkness?  The answer is that most deep-sea animals have evolved the ability to produce their own light, and this is called bioluminescence.  Most deep-sea creatures either have all the machinery to produce bioluminescence themselves (examples include fish and crustaceans), while others form a unique relationship with glowing bacteria that live in their light organs (example include squid and angler fish).  This results in a beautiful underwater display of flashes, sparks and glows, much like a fireworks display on the 4th of July.  However, in the deep-sea, where food and mates are limited and predators lurk in complete darkness, this light show is not for fun.  The stakes are high, and this underwater “language of light” is critical for the animal’s survival.  


During this cruise we have witnessed some incredible examples of bioluminescence which I am excited to share with all of you. 

Deep-sea flashlights:  Do you see all those beautiful dots of purple and red?  Those are called photophores, or light organs, which glow in the dark.  Much like a flashlight they can turn on and off when needed and can be tuned to match the brightness around them.  In many cases they are found along the entire surface of the animal’s body and can be used to lure in prey (oh, something shiny!!), defend themselves (ahhhh, too bright!!) or communicate with others of the same species (hey, you see me over here, what is yourrrrr name?).  Below, you are looking at a loosejaw fangfish (Aristostomias) and Viperfish (Chauliodus sloani).  One has a bring red light organ below the eye and the other has light organs all over!  


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Photos:  H. BRacken-Grissom


Glowing blue vomit:  Did you know the deep-sea shrimp can vomit a bright blue glowing mucus?  Yep, it is true, and they do this to protect themselves when they get scared.   Ingenious, huh?  Below, you are looking at a deep-sea shrimp by the name of Notostomus gibbosus.  When startled, this deep-sea beauty will secrete a blue smokescreen that will stun a predator while they tail-flip backwards to escape.   Gooo team shrimp!



Photo: H. Bracken-Grissom

Wonder what it looks like?  See below....


Photo:  Sonke Johnsen

The Language of Light:  We know very little about how dee-sea creatures use bioluminescence to communicate due to the difficulties of studying these creatures in their natural habitat.  However, it is possible that these beautiful multi-colored barbels could be the clue.  Do these help find mates?  Do they lure in prey?  Both?  I assure you we are going to have some fun exploring and trying to solve the many mysteries that the deep-sea holds.  Until next time……. 


Photo:  H. Bracken-Grissom








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By Daniel Hahn, NOAA

When the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened more than a dozen years ago the thought of so much oil impacting the deep sea had not been considered thoroughly enough to fully comprehend the impacts. With the depth of the release nearly a mile below the surface, the high pressure of the release and the application of dispersants at the well head, a large portion of the oil remained trapped in the deep sea. As the strategy advisor for the offshore water column injury assessment, I worked with an incredible team of biologists, modelers, project managers, and more to develop a sampling plan to investigate the impacts of the oil spill on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the animals that inhabit them. Dozens of offshore sampling missions were part of the investigation and one of the main goals was simply to document what was in the deep waters of the Gulf. We had limited understanding of the diversity, distribution and abundance of the deep sea animals.

Fast forward a dozen years and I am finally offshore in the Gulf of Mexico seeing these animals on board the ship as they come up from the depths. While looking at pictures is great, there is something extra special about seeing the animals first hand. Looking at teeth, scales, spines, eyes, and photophores under a microscope shows just how beautiful and amazing these animals are. Because of the lack of light where these animals live, many are black, red (red light doesn’t penetrate very deep into the sea), or clear. Clear animals always amaze me.

Now for a quick comparison of how I identify with a couple of the animals that I had the privilege of being able to observe as they were brought up from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico:

The Angler has a lure attached to its body to attract its prey. While I don’t have a lure attached, I once spent a year fishing only with flies that I tied from my own mustache hair.


The first Angler I saw aboard the DEEPEND RESTORE cruise on the R/V Point Sur! Insets: Mustache fly and tripletail caught on mustache fly. (Photo: D. Hahn)

The Swallower eats big meals. Since I typically don’t eat breakfast, and have been known to skip lunch too, with three great meals a day on board the ship, I feel a bit like a Swallower.


I feel like a Swallower after three big meals a day! (Photo: D. Hahn)

While we certainly hope that we don’t have another major spill like the Deepwater Horizon, there is always a chance. Additionally, there have been several smaller spills that have occurred in the depths of the Gulf in the last decade. In order to understand how these deep-water spills impact this incredibly diverse assemblage of fish and invertebrates, long term investigations such as this DEEPEND RESTORE project are crucial.

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Hi everyone! My name is Haley Glasmann and I am a second year PhD student in Dr. Kevin Boswell’s Marine Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory at Florida International University. I am very excited to be here on the R/V Point Sur on my first ever scientific research cruise. Dr. Boswell’s lab focuses on using active acoustic a.k.a. SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) technology to understand the processes that mediate behavioral and distributional patterns in marine organisms.

As part of the DP08 cruise, we are using ship-mounted echosounders to observe the deep scattering layer community. The “Pod” is where we have echosounders operating at frequencies of 18, 38, 70, 120, and 200 kHz. Having multiple frequencies helps us characterize the water column based on the acoustic response (echo) of individuals and/or the aggregations that are dispersed under the pod during data collection. This data is shown to us in real time, which allows us to inform where to deploy our WBAT (Wideband Autonomous Transceiver) and MOCNESS (Multiple Open/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System). The WBAT (that we affectionally also call the “wombat”) is currently fitted with a 38 and 200 kHz transducer operating in wideband and is mounted to the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) profiler, which travels through the water column down to depths of 1500m. With the ability to bring the WBAT/CTD into the scattering layers themselves, we can collect high resolution data on the individual scattering types (organisms) present within. For my dissertation, I am interested in using the WBAT data in tandem with the ship-mounted echosounders to analyze the spatial arrangement and density of scatters within different parts of the layer. Fine scale interpretation of the community that undergoes diel vertical migration has important implications for developing an enhanced understanding of carbon cycling in the open ocean and mesopelagic fisheries management

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The acoustics lab and Haley deploying a CTD array (Photos: Haley Glasmann)

A typical “day” on the R/V Point Sur for me begins at about 4:30pm, let’s hear it for the night shift! First order of business is programing the WBAT for deployment on an evening CTD cast. I then eat dinner for my “breakfast” while the unit is collecting data. At about 8:45pm, we retrieve the CTD/WBAT back on deck and then the crew prepares to deploy the MOCNESS. During the night I monitor the ship-mounted echosounders, keeping a close eye on computer processing and power supply to ensure we are continuously collecting data. Other parts of the night include catching up on reading, replying to emails, jamming out to my Spotify playlists, making Styrofoam crafts (check out my shrunken head!) and the best part of all- seeing all the deep-sea creatures that come up in the MOCNESS around 3am. As the sun rises, I prepare to end my day with another CTD/WBAT deployment and enjoy a savory breakfast of bacon, grits, and biscuits from Chef Mike! …and after that at about 9am, time to get some rest!


Styrofoam head before and after CTD deployment down to 1000 m (Photos: H. Glasmann)

Check out my video on Instagram

Interested in keeping up of my graduate school adventures and the Boswell Lab? Check out @scubahaleykat and @boswelllab on Instagram for more!

Thanks for reading!

Best fishes,

Haley K. Glasmann

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By Jon Moore

While this DEEPEND RESTORE project is focused on deep-sea animals, we are also exploring linkages between those deep-sea animals and other marine life out in the ocean. One of those links is with the oceanic bird fauna. Some oceanic birds (petrels and storm-petrels) are known to feed on the mesopelagic fishes and squids that migrate to the surface at night.

 A ship out at sea is like a moving island in the ocean. Especially when storms occur, various birds may seek refuge on ships or are attracted to the lights of the ship at night. During a thunderstorm yesterday, we had two Cliff Swallows visit the ship. So, we are doing observations, when possible, to see what birds are visible from the ship.

 The first thing we noticed is that we have a few hitchhikers that have decided to stay on the vessel as a convenient place to rest and launch feeding excursions into the surrounding waters. A juvenile Brown Booby and a juvenile White Ibis have each taken residence on the ship. The ibis is wandering around the decks and poking around in various holes and crevices. The booby perches on the ship’s anchor and is sometimes joined by other brown boobies (at least one other juvenile and 2 adults over the past week). A Masked Booby has perched on the bow a couple of times. When the ship disturbs a group of flying fishes, these boobies launch themselves quickly and swoop down to catch those flying fishes while they are gliding over the water.

Other birds we have seen this past week include Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, Magnificent Frigates, Leach’s Storm Petrels, and Audubon’s Shearwater.

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Left to right:  Brown Booby (Photo: LRose-Mann) Juvenile White Ibis (Photo: H Judkins)  Masked Booby (Photos: J. Moore)

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Hey everyone!

My name is Pedro A. Peres and I am a postdoc at Florida International University working with Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom. The focus of my research is to use genomic methods to understand how fish and crustacean species' DNA has changed over time after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

This is my first DEEPEND|RESTORE cruise and I am more than thrilled! The DEEPEND|RESTORE group has done amazing work in the past years, and we know for a fact that many deep-sea species populations are crashing. But what does genetics have to do with this? Everything! Genetic diversity is expected to follow population size changes, and it represents the potential of populations to deal with environmental changes (higher genetic diversity = higher potential to respond after disturbances).  Therefore, if population abundances are declining, can we detect changes in genetic diversity? If the genetic diversity is declining, species might not be able to survive after a future potential disaster. For this cruise, I am in charge of making sure that all fish specimens are being preserved in the right way for the many genetic analyses we want to do. This means preserving specimens or tissue, writing labels, flash-freezing specimens in liquid nitrogen, sterilizing materials, and changing gloves all the time (haha). If I have a little time, I go bug HBG to look at some of the cool crustaceans we are also collecting. So far, we have more questions than answers..  but I’ll be back in a future post!

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Pedro sampling a whalefish (Photo: H. Bracken-Grissom) and a dragonfish that is waiting to be processed (Photo: P.A. Peres)

Besides all the scientific experience, I celebrated my 30th birthday on board and had a surprise party! Who else can say they spent their 3.0 birthday in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, with lots of cool creatures and amazing people? For sure an experience I will remember for a long time.


Happy Birthday to Pedro!  (Photo: A. Cook)

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