Showing blog posts tagged with "Bioluminescence"
by AMNH on
Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31. This week, he invited marine biologist David Gruber, an assistant professor at The City University of New York (CUNY) and a Museum research associate who consulted on the exhibition, to contribute the guest post below.
Imagine a group of single-celled animals smaller than the width of a human hair that possess 25 times the amount of DNA as humans. These organisms both bask in the sun to obtain energy, like plants, and actively hunt, like animals, even slurping out the insides of other cells. They include some of the fastest speed demons of the microscopic domain, propelling themselves up to 200-500 μm/second—the equivalent to a 6-foot Olympian athlete swimming at 40 mph. On top of these feats, a few members are responsible for creating the nighttime sparkle on breaking surf.
by AMNH on
Although they look like alien beings right out of a (low-budget) horror film with huge, dagger-like teeth, enormous mouths, and their own lights, many of the deep-sea creatures we feature in the exhibition can be found in the deep, perpetually dark waters right off shore from our major cities, such as the Hudson Canyon near New York City and the San Diego Trough off of southern California. To collect these bizarre creatures, we tow a special net behind a boat far below the surface, an important method of collection not just for fishes, but for all kinds of invertebrates, and one that’s allowed us to learn more about the ocean’s inhabitants than any other technique. Once we retrieve the net from the depths, we sort and photograph the still-glowing catch on board. These images show some of the extraordinary deep-sea creatures we collected on a recent expedition off of southern California.
by AMNH on
One of the amazing things about working on an exhibition is having the chance to incorporate our own research—sometimes, very recent research.
Within the past year, including just last December, my colleague, Museum Research Associate David Gruber (CUNY), and I have gone on multiple expeditions to the Cayman Islands and the Exumas, Bahamas, to photograph a coral wall and its inhabitants at night using special lights and filters to capture biofluorescence.
The phenomenon of biofluorescence results from the absorption of electromagnetic radiation at one wavelength by an organism, followed immediately by its re-emission at a longer, lower-energy wavelength. With special cameras, we captured brilliant red, green, and orange fluorescing corals, anemones, mollusks, marine worms, and a myriad of fishes, including sharks and rays.
by AMNH on
Curator John Sparks will be blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31.
In just a little over a month, on March 31, the American Museum of Natural History will open our latest exhibition, Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence,which focuses on the amazing diversity of organisms that produce light across every conceivable habitat. Every exhibition we produce is a collaboration between the Museum’s research scientists and the exhibition team, which includes writers, designers, artists, and media specialists. I’m the curator for this exhibition, which means that I oversee the scientific content and bring expertise from my research—in this case, on the evolution of bioluminescent signaling systems in marine fishes.We’re hard at work on the show this month, and I’ll be writing weekly posts from behind the scenes to offer some glimpses of what goes into producing a major exhibition. Here’s my first dispatch:
by AMNH on
Stony corals are living animals that are only two cell layers thick, but over time, their calcium carbonate skeletons can form massive limestone islands. Some contain fluorescent molecules, proteins in their tissue that absorb light from an external source and emit light back at different wavelengths. Marine biologist David Gruber uses a painstaking method of underwater photography to get striking images of fluorescent corals, including images of moon coral and staghorn coral currently on display in the exhibition Picturing Science: Museum Scientists and Imaging Technologies.
“You shine a specific wavelength of light to stimulate the protein—usually blue or green—and the corals emit back in otherworldly greens and reds,” explains Gruber, a research associate in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, “You have to photograph underwater in the dark at night with specially-filtered strobes because you’re only interested in the light emitted by the corals and other reef-dwelling organisms.”
Gruber photographed these corals in the northern Red Sea in Eilat, Israel, in May 2010, as part of his research into the patterns and functions of fluorescent proteins. Fluorescent proteins have been found to be useful tools in studying AIDS, Altzheimer’s, cancer, and other diseases, as well as in basic biological research.