Living polyp of a Swiftia sp. sea fan. Photo credit: Peter Etnoyer, HRI.
Many deep-water animals have never been photographed alive in their natural habitat, they’re known only from their pickled state. Dried, dusty, and broken specimens fill museum drawers. “Living specimen photography” captures vital information before a specimen is collected. Remember to “snap” before you snip. It brings those dusty drawers to life!
Swiftia sp. is a dark loving, azooxanthellate sea fan, one of many ‘asymbiotes’ in the twilight zone of the West Atlantic. The living colony’s color and morphology is seen below in a series of images through the microscope, and in-situ through the lens of the Sonsub Innovator ROV aboard NOAA’s RV Ron Brown on the 2003 Gulf of Mexico Deep Sea Habitats Expedition.