Hello 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.
In 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!
Dr. Tamara Frank, Chief Scientist and Deep-sea Explorer
Vision and Bioluminescence in the Deep-sea Benthos II, NOAA Ocean Exploration