We finally saw dolphins this morning! They graced us with their presence around 3 a.m. as they were foraging for flyingfish. We did get the Go Pro in the water for a few moments and were able to get a few good clips; one even came up and checked out the camera! We were in the middle of working up a sample so we weren't able to hang with them for too long. After breakfast we went to the bow of the boat where they were riding and playing in the waves. It was daylight out so we were able to get a better look at them and we think that they were Spinner dolphins!Last modified on
The past few days have been absolutely beautiful and the water has been so calm that it looks like glass. Yesterday after breakfast we went outside for our morning ocean air and observed a waterspout form, grow larger, and then dissipate. The sunset last night was amazing as well, with bright magenta hues accompanied by schools of flyingfish everywhere. We have been so fortunate with the weather this week. The samples the past few days have also brought in some really awesome specimens including a fangtooth or "ogrefish" and several dragonfish.
The fangtooth, Anoplogaster cornuta, is one of the coolest fish I have seen. At first glance you can't help but notice its large fang-like teeth and its armored body and you just know that this fish has to be one of the biggest predators in the deep. The two large fangs on the lower jaw are so long that it has a pair of opposing sockets on either side of the brain to accommodate the large teeth. Its body feels rough, almost like sandpaper, whereas the other deep sea fishes feel a bit more slimy and smooth. This fish is not like any other that we have seen thus far on the trip! Truly an incredible find!
We also had a few dragonfish swim into our nets, Photostomias guernei and Echiostoma barbatum. The dragonfish also have fang-like teeth which allows them to grab onto their prey more efficiently. They are also covered with gorgeous photophores such as the one below.
Echiostoma barbatum Check out that beautiful photophore!
We are all really enjoying ourselves and having tons of fun! Although we miss our families very much, we talk about you all the time! Much love from the R.V. Point Sur. Thank you so much for reading!
Your Teacher at Sea,
Happy Thursday from the middle of the Gulf!
Phronima, a deep sea hyperiid amphipod, is a type of crustacean that looks like an alien! We have been pulling these little creatures up in the nets the past few days and they are quite intriguing looking. I can’t help but think of my son Noah and how excited he would be to see one of these, I’m pretty sure he would be mesmerized! It’s amusing how the inner child comes out in all of us when we bring in the nets and look over the samples; it’s like Christmas morning!
Phronima is considered an ambush predator with really large claws in relation to its body size. It uses large claws to tear apart its prey and its tiny mouth to shred. This organism likes to maintain its secrecy in the deep sea by hiding inside a semi-hard gelatinous barrel. This barrel seems to serve as its habitat and protection from others by camouflaging itself. The amphipod feeds on organisms such as salps (gelatinous zooplankton), jellies, and siphonophores, but it doesn’t just eat them. Some sources say that the Phronima reuses the gelatinous material from its prey and builds a barrel. Somehow the amphipod harvests some of the living cells from its prey and builds the structure.
So why would an animal do this is? What is the benefit? The barrel could possibly provide protection by allowing the animal to flawlessly blend in. If a predator attacks it will first come into contact with the barrel, not the amphipod, increasing its chances of survival. Energy efficiency could be another possible benefit. The barrel may allow this organism to maintain buoyancy, which could allow the amphipod to travel farther, and in turn be exposed to a variety of food sources in the water column. There is some research that suggests that their barrel behavior may be a type of symbiosis as well.
Another cool feature on these amphipods is their enormous compound eyes. There is recent research that in the species Paraphronima gracilis, their compound eyes have 32 retinas, 16 in each eye, which scientists have never seen in any other arthropod species before, the function is still unknown. This could be an evolutionary adaptation as a response to living in the deep sea. You can read more about it at the link below.
There are many more cool stories to tell about the amazing creatures we are finding! Keep checking back for more!
Happy Tuesday from the middle of the Gulf where the temperature is hot, the water is like glass, and the sun is shining!
The past few days have been early mornings for all of us on the R.V. Point Sur. The nets come up around 3:30 -3:45 a.m. and the processing begins immediately and lasts between three to five hours! The scientists methodically sort out the specimens according to their specialty and the lab is flowing with scientific names! At first it was a bit overwhelming because I had no idea what all of the scientific names were (I was only familiar with the common names), but after a few days, multiple samples, and seeing the same organisms over and over, I’m beginning to recognize the various species.
We have been catching some pretty awesome fish, crustaceans, larva, cephalopods, and jellies. The colors of the animals are mostly black and deep red with many bioluminescent capabilities. The organisms are full of extraordinary photophores, tiny and complex light emitting organs, which allow them to emit bursts and pulses of light, whether it is for communication, mate attraction, or predator avoidance. Some of the photophores were still emitting light when we looked at them under the microscope! I will post some of those pictures tomorrow so stay tuned!
Below are pictures of some of the amazing critters we have been fortunate to observe. Some pictures I took and some were provided by our amazing photographer on board, Dante Fenolio.
The picture on the left is the cod end of the net where all the organisms are, and the picture on the right is an example of one net sample. Once it is poured into the container all of the scientists go through it and sort out the species they study.
Deep sea crustaceans! Deep sea squid, Abralia redfieldi
The picture on the left is of a female anglerfish! The females are the ones that have the lures, not the males. They typically use the lures to attract prey. The picture on the right is what happens when a styrofoam cup is submerged into the ocean 1500 meters! The pressure is so great that it crushes the cup to this minute size.
Tiny anemone larvae that we found in several of our samples today!
I will post more amazing pictures and information tomorrow! Thanks for following the teacher at sea blog!
The sunset last night was gorgeous!
Our morning began nice and early at 2 a.m. with the deployment of the MOCNESS! This was our trial run to make sure that the apparatus works correctly. The net was down for about two hours and fished the top 200 meters. When the net surfaced it was safely secured on the vessel, the samples were collected and taken into the wet lab, placed in the sample tray, and the specimens were all processed. In our trial sample we found several species of fish including dragonfish, lanternfish, eels, over two hundred crustaceans, pteropods, a cephalopod, and many planktonic larvae. The trial run was a great snapshot of what is to come, which is extremely exciting and leaves me just wanting to learn and see more. The diversity that I saw this morning was simply incredible! To be able to see these organisms firsthand and not on a documentary or in pictures is such a rare opportunity and I can’t wait to share more with you over the next two weeks! There will be more cool species to report tomorrow once our sampling continues. We ran into a few technical difficulties that occurred this morning so hopefully we will be up and running tonight!
Emptying the trial sample. Pteropods, also known as Sea Butterfly's.
Over 200 Crustaceans were collected. Ceratoscopelus warmingii
After our trial sample and breakfast it was time to deploy the AUV. Charles Kovach, a research scientist at USF College of Marine Science, successfully deployed the University of South College of Marine Science AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) Glider into the Gulf of Mexico. Chad Lembke is the leader of the Gulf Glider Task Team at USF College of Marine Science and works collaboratively with GCOOS / GANDALF (Gulf Coast Ocean Observing System) which is based out of Texas A&M but operate regionally.
The Glider will be roaming the waters of the Gulf for the next 14 days and will be retrieved at the last site we sample. You can follow the AUV at http://gcoos2.tamu.edu/gandalf/. The AUV is programmed to surface every three hours and will travel up and down in the water column between 200-1,000 meters in the Loop current. The AUV provides scientists with real time data on key abiotic and biotic factors in the ocean such as chlorophyll, temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, conductivity, turbidity, and dissolved organic matter. The overall goal is to show a correlation between the chemical and physical composition of the ocean and how it directly relates to the strength and success of an ecosystem.
Until tomorrow my friends!