A Salute to Coral

Hi Kids,

A coral Polyp. (Photo courtesy NOAA. Credit Chad King)

A coral Polyp. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

After following Dr. Frank and the Science Team’s Creep into the Deep research with NOAA-OE and seeing all the amazing photos including coral, I thought it’d be fun to test your knowledge about coral.

♥♥ True or False ♥♥

Coral is a plant. True or False?

False: Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms related to jellyfish and anemones.

Corals only live in shallow water. True or False?

A deep-sea coral

False. Though many kinds of coral do live in shallower water, many others live deep in the sea.

Some corals can live thousands of years. True or False?

True. Deep-sea corals are the old souls of the sea!

Coral that lives in shallower water gets its coloration from algae. True or False?

A Hawaiian hogfish swims through the colorful coral reef

A Hawaiian hogfish swims through the colorful coral reef

True. Colorful algae called Zooxanthellae (pronounced: zõ-zan-thell-ee) live in coral polyps. The algae creates the beautiful colors in reef building coral and provides much of the energy the coral needs. Zooxanthellae gets its energy from the sun.

 All corals build reefs (hard rock-like structures). Some corals do not. True or False?

True. The reefs most people think of are built by each polyp. Each polyp in reef-building corals creates a protective limestone cup-like external skeleton. The polyps live in a colony. Coral colonies grow over hundreds and thousands of years and join with other colonies and become reefs. like a giant living rocky city Some reefs began over 50 million years. Cool!

Now you know a lot more about coral.

See you next time,
Dudley

Elusive Giant Isopod

Dear Virtual Science Team,

Photo 3 Giant Isopod Creep into the Deep 640 x 433Though we hoped to see many giant isopods so we could learn more about their vision. So far they have eluded us. Maybe on the next ROV dive or maybe the Medusa secretly videoed them dancing and singing after the ROV left!  Wouldn’t that cool?

Tammy
Dr. Tamara Frank
Chief Scientist and Deep-Sea Explorer
Creep into the Deep Mission:
Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015 Expedition, NOAA-OER

PS Click here to watch a fun video about giant isopods from our friends at the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Oceanscape Network.

The Medusa

Hello Virtual Science Team,
MEDUSA  Creep into the Deep 640 x 383Today is the fifth day of our cruise and the Medusa is on her second drop. This is the first time for the Medusa to be in the Gulf of Mexico. The Medusa is a camera system designed to explore the deep sea in a new way – one that focuses on attracting animals instead of scaring them away.  I became interested in a different way of exploring after many years of diving in submersibles and using Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Both convinced me that animals were avoiding the bright lights and noisy thrusters on these standard exploration platforms.
My solution was a camera platform that was quiet and that could see without being seen by illuminating with red light that is invisible to most deep sea animals and that used an optical lure. MEDUSA Atolla and eJelly example  Creep into the Deep 640 x 339What’s an optical lure? It’s a ring of dim blue lights that imitates the bioluminescent burglar alarm display of a deep-sea jellyfish. The burglar alarm might startle the predator and entice bigger predators to swoop in for a quick meal of the would-be predator. When the e-jelly on the Medusa lights up, it lures animals closer so we can capture them on video.
It has been remarkably successful and has recorded some amazing things including the first video ever recorded of a giant squid in the deep sea!  We probably won’t see any giant squid on this mission but I’m always hopeful that we’ll see something completely new and exciting.
ANIMAL Cutthorat eel photo from Medusa Deep sea Shrimp Heterocarpus ensifer  Creep into the Deep 609 x 480Here is a photo from its first deployment on this cruise, a very cool eel.
It’ll be exciting to find out what else the Medusa saw in the deep!
Cheers,
Edie
Dr. Edith Widder
Marine Biologist and Deep-Sea Explorer
Creep into the Deep Mission:
Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015 Expedition, NOAA-OER

Tusk, horn, or clam?

Hi Virtual Science Team,
ANIMAL #6 Tusk Shell Scaphopod Creep into the Deep 640 x 400Our Global Explorer ROV happened upon this We also saw what we think is a Scaphopod. This odd-looking creature is related to a clam, so it has a shell like a clam does. But it has this unusual cone shape.  Because it’s shaped like a tusk, it’s also called a tusk shell. Usually, they’re found buried in the sediment (dirt), with the narrow end up, but this little thing was moving along, dragging its huge shell behind it.  We never did figure out why it didn’t like the section of mud that it was already on. I guess that’s an advantage of having your home on your back. You can pick up and move if you don’t like the neighborhood!
Tammy
Dr. Tamara Frank
Chief Scientist and Deep-Sea Explorer
Creep into the Deep Mission:
Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015 Expedition, NOAA-OER

Weird but true…it’s a fish

ANIMAL #5 Ipnops an unusual fish Creep into the Deep 640 x 469Hi Virtual Science Team,
Our Global Explorer ROV happened upon this very unusual fish called Ipnops. Those two bright yellow patches on the top of its head are its eyes.  It doesn’t have lenses, because those cut out too much light.  Basically, the eyes are naked retinas, with a layer of reflecting pigment below them, which is what gives it them that yellowish glow when you shine a light on it.
Tammy
Dr. Tamara Frank
Chief Scientist and Deep-Sea Explorer
Creep into the Deep Mission:
Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015 Expedition, NOAA-OER

Let’s not Trash the Sea

Dear Virtual Science Team,
TRASH IN THE DEEP Creep into the Deep 617 x 480We’ve seen so many exotic and amazing creatures it makes me smile just thinking about them. As you know, the deep is a very important home to so many mysterious and marvelous animals.
Some moments, though, cause my smile to fade. At the deepest depths, we see trash. Human created garbage mars the beauty even at the great depths where we’re studying, 6,562 feet (2,000 m).
At this deepest habitat, where there’s so little structure, some of the animals try to colonize on the trash. But as you can see with the anemone wrapped in the plastic, its growth is being warped.  We saw fishing line, soda cans, trash bags, and even a big oil barrel.
Now that you’ve helped us explore the deep, you have an important job. Help us keep it clean.
Many people do not realize that everything they do on land affects the deep — from not properly disposing of trash to not monitoring invisible pollutants such as chemicals like the detergents, fertilizers,  cars, and other products we use all the time.
How can you help? It’s easy to make a difference. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Be aware of the products you use that might run from your home,  lawn, or driveway into storm drains an into streams and rivers. It all makes it to the ocean.
What do you think you can do to help us protect the deep sea? 
Tammy
Dr. Tamara Frank
Chief Scientist and Deep-Sea Explorer
Creep into the Deep Mission:
Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015 Expedition, NOAA-OER

Glass Sponge

ANIMALS Glass Sponge with Sea Lily Creep into the Deep 592 x 480Hello from the Gulf of Mexico. The research cruise is going great and the ROV dives successful. Here are a couple more gorgeous creatures we found today at 1920 feet.
I just love this glass sponge. It is so beautiful, like spun glass. With the sea lily on top, it looks like such a delicate flowering plant. A sea lily is in the same group as seastars and sea urchins. In a world with very little substrate (stuff on the ground), the sponge makes a lovely substrate for a sea lily.
As we were collecting the glass sponge, we saw yellow things inside.  We asked the ROV pilot to tip the claw towards us (the camera) so we could see what they were. They were tiny amphipods (relatives of shrimp). These glass sponges always seem to have amphipods or shrimp associated with them. Often, the spicules of the sponge close off the opening. The shrimp (sometimes a pair of male and female) are trapped inside.  They do quite well because they’re filter feeders like the sponge. The sponge is in the right position to capture food carried by the current, which means the amphipods inside can too.
ANIMALS Glass Sponge with Amphipods  Creep into the Deep 640 x 398In some cultures, the glass sponge and the mating pair of crustaceans inside, are dried and given as a wedding gift as a sign of everlasting love. It’s called a Venus Flower Basket.
I wonder what we’ll find on our next dive!
Cheers
Tammy
Dr. Tamara Frank, Chief Scientist and Deep-sea Explorer

Vision and Bioluminescence in the Deep-sea Benthos II, NOAA Ocean Exploration