From the whimsical to the downright scary, images featuring creatures from the deep are showcased in the BP Kongsberg Underwater Image Competition being held this week at the 11th International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium, UK. Narelle Towie takes a look at some of the most striking entries.
Looking like a set of deep-sea headlights, the luminous stare of this myctophid lanternfish was captured by David Forcucci as he worked aboard a research ship in pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast. Caught in a net at 2,000 metres depth, the fish was one of many hauled aboard the RV Malcolm Baldrige in 1995 as part of the Globec programme, which studied marine populations in the Indian Ocean. The image earned Forcucci fifth place in his category.
During the day, lanternfish lurk in gloomy waters hundreds of metres deep to avoid predators. But as sundown approaches, the fish rise much closer to the surface to feed on zooplankton.
Six years after this picture was taken, a US oceanography research ship working in the same area was chased and shot at by pirates (see Nature 413, 97; 200110.1038/35093228).
“It's a snowboarding whale worm,” says photographer Adrian Glover, a researcher from the Natural History Museum in London. “Not really, but that's what Bathykurila guaymasensis looked like when we found him,” he explains.
This polychaete, collected by researchers studying whale falls in the Santa Cruz Basin, southern California, was found 1,600 metres down, moving across a white mat of bacteria that were feeding off the bones of a dead grey whale.
This frame grab from a video camera attached to a remotely operated vehicle was bagged by Scott France from the Deep Atlantic Stepping Stones research group, and came in the last minutes of a 19-hour dive to study coral communities in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Perched high on a coral, this five-armed galatheid crab was lucky to have a seat at all. The 2-metre-tall rare black coral shown here narrowly missed being wiped out by the trawl of a fishing net that destroyed coral directly adjacent to this shot. The image was taken in August 2005 and won its category.
The vivid orange colours of this Stauroteuthis syrtensis were caught by wildlife photographer David Shale during a research cruise in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The image won its category.
Nicknamed Dumbo because of two small flipper fins behind its eyes, this 30-centimetre-long octopus was snared in a collection tank attached to the Johnson-Sea-Link, a small submersible capable of diving to 1,000 metres. Both human occupants and sea life are kept at a chilly 6 °C while in the submersible. Brrr.
This deep-sea demersal shark (Deania calceus) fed for 20 minutes before letting hungry arrowtooth eels have their turn on the metal feeding arm of the RObust BIOdiversity lander — known as ROBIO. By handing out mackerel to scavenging fauna, ROBIO gives researchers from Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen, UK, the ability to survey sea life.
This shot, taken at 931 metres depth in sea waters west of Ireland, earned a 'highly commended' rating for Aberdeen's Nicola King.
Related links in Nature Research
Marine science: Boiling points
Oil-rig staff get into marine biology
Giant squid snapped in the deep
Related external links
BP Kongsberg Underwater Image Competition 2006 - shortlist
The 11th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
Undersea Images by Dave Forcucci
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Deep-sea wonders. Nature 442, 116–117 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/442116a