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Behind the Scenes: Keeping It Current

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On Exhibit posts

John Sparks collects fishes for fluorescence imaging in December 2011. © CUNY/D. Gruber

Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31.

One of the most exciting, yet challenging, things about this exhibition is that we have been able to incorporate so much current research. Many of the images and results visitors will see are the subject of ongoing research projects by me and a number of collaborators.

For example, Museum Research Associate David Gruber, an assistant professor at The City University of New York (CUNY), and I captured most of the dazzling images of fluorescent fishes shown on the Bloody Bay Wall interactive exhibit in Creatures of Light less than three months ago. The striking images and information presented on deep-sea siphonophores, including a bizarre member of the genus Erenna studied by marine biologist Steven Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), are still in the process of being collected and are more or less being sent directly from the field.

The particular species of Erenna that we are featuring uses blue bioluminescent light produced in specialized tentacles to excite red fluorescent lures that this “superorganism”—a colony of highly specialized polyps with a variety of functions, including feeding, movement, buoyancy, and reproduction—uses to attract prey. More information on these strange creatures can be found here.

This fluorescent green false moray eel (Chlopsidae) was photographed on a field expedition three months ago. © CUNY/D. Gruber; © AMNH/J. Sparks

Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence opens on Saturday, March 31.