The deep-sea pickings are sparse this year at the Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology in San Antonio, TX. That’s OK, It’s a great meeting. “Horizontal”, my advisor says, “not vertical.” I’m learning about the flights of damselflies, hummingbirds, and bumblebees in between lectures on blue crab signaling and octopus middens.
My day started with a terrific review of fluorescence in the deep-sea by Mikhail Matz at UT-Austin, and ended with a sonics enhanced award lecture on the nature of stomatopod and lobster sounds by Sheila Patek at UC Berkeley. Patek gave a great review of her work on the source and apparatus of crustacean noises from shallow reefs all over the world. Not too much deep sea there, but lots of future application and potential.
Mikhail Matz leaned more towards the deep, but with a general approach, buoyed by recent cruises like Operation Deep Scope in 2005. He explained fluorescence is a transformation of light, “not entirely restricted to posters and nightclubs”. Fluorescence requires a light source, which is notably absent from the deep-sea. He briefly waxed philosophical about ambient bioluminescence as the deep-sea light source typically transformed by the fluorescent proteins.
Matz also conjectured upon the question of the function of fluorescence. Does it attract prey or repel predators, or both? Some repellent inks (from polychaetes?) are highly fluorescent, if that sways you at all. A few students and collaborators have posters. It seems like a real productive lab. Nice work, guys.
Deep-sea fluorescent creatures include the medusae, the chain catshark, and the cerianthid, or sand anemone. The picture below is lifted from the MatzLab website. Under white light the cerianthid was barely visible against a neutral background.