on the Deep-sea Floor
July 20–30, 2009
Sudden blue flashes . . . Shooting beams of red light . . . An eerie green glow. These are just some of the surreal displays created by deep-sea animals that are bioluminescent, which means they can create and emit visible light. A fascinating phenomenon, bioluminescence is found in only a few species on land (e.g., fireflies), but it is common in all the world’s oceans. It has been estimated that 90% of the animals living in the pelagic (open ocean) water column are bioluminescent.
However, information on bioluminescence in the deep-sea benthos (organisms that live on the bottom) is sparse, due to the difficulty in getting live animals in trawls and dredges for study. Based on the few but varied deep-sea sessile (attached to a base, like corals or sea anemones) animals that are known to be bioluminescent, and the adaptations that have been discovered in the large eyes of some of the motile (able to move) predators on previous NOAA Office of Education and Research (OER) expeditions, it is likely that benthic bioluminescence is abundant and plays a significant role in animal interactions.
That's what the Bioluminescence 2009 cruise is about. On July 20, a science team will embark on an expedition of discovery on the research vessel Seward Johnson to study bioluminescence on the deep-sea floor off the Bahamas.
Led by Chief Scientist Tamara Frank (Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution/Florida Atlantic University), Sönke Johnsen (Duke University), Edith Widder (Ocean Research & Conservation Association), Charles Messing (Nova Southeastern University), Steve Haddock (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), and other investigators will use their combined expertise in bioluminescence, taxonomy, visual ecology, imaging and molecular biology — together with the unique collecting capabilities of the Johnson-Sea-Link submersible — to explore the deep-sea benthic environment for undiscovered “living lights.”
You can access the Ocean Explorer Bioluminescence 2009 News Feed here:
Updates & Logs
Click images or links below for detailed mission logs and updates.