Hannah Miller, Explorer-in-Training, NOAA Ocean Exploration
This ctenophore was spotted swimming through the water column during Dive 04 of the 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones expedition. Belonging to the ctenophore order Lobata, family Lampoctenidae, this animal was initially identified as being the bloody belly ctenophore, though emerging research suggests that this yellow ctenophore might be a new and different red-belly ctenophore species. This complex field identification process highlights how difficult it can be to study animals in the deep ocean, how little we know, and how much more we have to learn.
Ctenophores, or comb jellies, have eight rows of cilia in structures called “ctenes” which reflect light, giving off a rainbow shimmer when under remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer’s bright lights. These ctenes propel the jellies through the water so that the ctenophores can catch and consume their prey. While this genus of ctenophore can come in different colors, their red bellies stay consistent. In the deep sea, red is nearly invisible, so the crimson-colored stomachs help the ctenophores hide the digestion of their bioluminescent prey. By concealing their recent meals, the ctenophores stay camouflaged and are prevented from being targeted by other predators.
Published July 21, 2021