Friday Deep-Sea Picture (9/7/07): Sea Butterflies

Clione, a shell-less snail know as the Sea Butterfly swims in the shallow waters beneath Arctic ice. Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Explorer and Elisabeth Calvert, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

2 comments on “Friday Deep-Sea Picture (9/7/07): Sea Butterflies
  1. Nice to see the picture, although the colors of Cliome are masked by the blue of the water.

    We saw several of these off the coast of Maine — near Bailey Island — in the fall of 1960 when I was taking Invertebrate Zoology at Bowdoin.

  2. I absolutely love Clione limacina. I first encountered them as an undergraduate student in Newfoundland, and ended up keeping several of them alive in a planktonkreisel which I was maintaining for a public education program. One day I managed to catch of bunch of the pteropod Limacina sp. which is the prey of Clinone, and watched the result. Clione looks so peaceful and serene when swimming, but upon contact with a Limacina shell, 6 buccal tentacles everted from the mouth to grasp the shell, manipulating it around so that the opening was facing it, and then the two clawlike appendages slid free, grabbing the smaller snail kicking and screaming (Or so I imagined!) from its shell. After about 20 seconds, the whole body had been swallowed, and empty shell dropped to the bottom, and the tentacles retracted, leaving the Clione to go about its graceful, casual swim.

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