An epic, three-year voyage around the world’s oceans has revealed an entire ecosystem of tiny organisms that lurk beneath the waves. Scientists set out on the schooner “Tara” to 210 stations in the seas, sampling the water for DNA. They found thousands of previouly unknown species that were larger than bacteria and viruses, but much smaller than the shrimplike creatures known as krill.
Stunning sea creatures
The scientists documented a menageries of stunning and bizarre sea creatures in the sunlight upper layers of the ocean, from glowing squid to tiny zooplankton. From left to right, the picture shows a crustacean copepod, a spider crab larva, an amphipod, a baby squid, a Phronimaamphipod, and an Atlanta pteropod mollusc. (Photo credit: ©Christian Sardet/CNRS/Tara Expéditions)
The team used tow nets with finer and finer mesh to capture some of the most miniscule creatures in the oceans. Here, some of the plankton pulled in from the Pacific Ocean with a 0.003 inch (0.1 millimeter) mesh net. The ultrafine mesh pulled up everything from zooplanktonic animals to larvae to single-celled creatures such as diatoms, dinoflagellates and radiolarians. (Photo credit: ©Christian Sardet/CNRS/Tara Expéditions)
The team found a huge array of previously unknown single-celled eukaryotes and simple multicellular organisms that lived in the ocean. Among those was the Lauderia annulata, which lurks in the Indian Ocean. This massive diatoms, which is 0.007 inches (0.2 millimeters) across, is actually a single cell. Chloroplasts glow green and yellow inside its body. If it looks like a sparkling, colorful piece of glass, that’s because it is: the outer casing of the cell is made of glass. (Photo credit: ©Christian Sardet/CNRS/Tara Expéditions)
Zoo of plankton
Not everything the team catalogued was teeny. Here, an immortal jellyfish viewed by the team. This translucent sea creature was spied in the Mediterranean sea and is likely a close cousin of the immortal jellyfish, known as Turritopsis. (Photo credit: ©Christian Sardet/CNRS/Tara Expéditions)
The team snapped some photos of tiny, multicellular organisms called copepods in the Mediterranean sea. Here, the copepod Sapphirinasparkles as light diffuses through its outer layer of epidermis, which is made up of little plates. Sapphirina tend to congregate where their hosts, barrel-shaped tunicates called salps, are plentiful. (Photo credit: ©Christian Sardet/CNRS/Sharif Mirshak/Parafilms/Tara Expeditions)
Some of the strange creatures look like would be more at home on another world. Here, an alienlike hyperiid amphipod of the Phronimagenus. These little parasites gobble up salps, then use the salps now-empty, jellylike outer husks to protect themselves from predators. (Photo credit: ©M.Ormestad/Kahikai/Tara Oceans)
Wanna see more?
Scientists captured stunning images of deep sea creatures off the coast of Puerto Rico. Some are so new to us that they don’t even have names.
Fabio Evagelista is a Brazilian writer.
Crossed Paths is the first book of the Myra-Hati trilogy, an epic adventure in a post-apocalyptic world, for the lovers of sci-fi / fantasy genre. This is the author’s first work published in America.