A healthy coral reef can be one of the most colorful places on earth: here, a pair of curious yellownose gobies gaze out from their refuge of richly textured bolder brain coral.
Todd Mintz snapped this stunning photo in of yellownose gobies, Elacatinus randalli, and bolder brain coral in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean.
This pic won First Place, Macro in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science’s annual amateur underwater photography contest. Check out the other winners here – and get your underwater photog vibe on — there’s plenty of time to grab some award-winning ocean pics for next year.
A transparent sea cucumber, photographed 1.7 miles down (2,750 meters) in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists found this transparent sea cucumber, Enypniastes, creeping forward on its many tentacles at less than 1 inch (2 cm) per minute while sweeping detritus-rich sediment into its mouth. From LiveScience; photo by Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst.
The fact that the BP oil leak is gushing a mile underwater has kept the incident from becoming the complete public relations disaster it would be if a fraction of the oil geyser’s output was coming anywhere near lots of shore or humans.
This is divine luck for BP right now.
But it’s the opposite for the wildly diverse and biologically important life in the Gulf of Mexico’s deep waters.
The creatures of the deep sea are not entirely documented nor understood by researchers. Complex, labor-intensive and invaluable expeditions have been regularly trying to find these creatures, document them, and study their wondrous biologies, including bioluminescence and visual polarization. Thousands and thousands of creatures somehow thrive in darkness. Some are so delicate, their bodies disintegrate when scientists try to capture them for study.
The deep sea “is the Earth’s largest continuous ecosystem and largest habitat for life. It is also the least studied,” said researcher Chris German of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, co-chair of Biogeography of Deep-Water Chemosynthetic Systems project, part of the global 10-year Census of Marine Life.
It’s difficult to know how the sea life anywhere near the mile-deep oil spigot – or those being soaked in BP’s chemical dispersant (Corexit 9500) – will live through it. And even harder to understand how the damage at those depths could be documented.
It will be the silent, unmarked devastation of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. We’ll probably never know the magnitude of destruction at depth.
A one-centimeter large larval-tube Medusae anemone. It’s already begun fishing for food with its tiny tentacles and its dark stomach indicates it’s finding food.
This image was taken as part of the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year collaboration among more than 2,000 scientists from 80+ nations. The census, which will be released later this year, is the first-ever effort to create a catalog of marine life in our oceans — and thus provide us a baseline of its diversity, distribution, and abundance.
Four of the Census’s 14 studies are focusing on ‘hardest-to-see’ sea creatures — tiny microbes, zooplankton, larvae and burrowers in the sea bed, which together underpin almost all other life on the planet. They’ve discovered an astounding number of new species.
As Dr. John Baross put it, “This is a huge frontier for the next decade.”
Another big benefit for the oceans? “The Census has helped develop a world view,” says Dr. Ann Bucklin, head of the marine zooplankton portion of the census, “and all of us who work in the field have treasured that.”
Photo by Cheryl Clarke-Hopcroft/UAF/CMarZ