Don’t you wish you had an ubercool espionage movie soundtrack to accompany you wherever you go? I know I do. Make sure to hit the HQ button if you have the bandwidth.
Actually, I quite wish they’d present more nature videos this way. Do these jellies not have the feel of sleek hyper-space cruisers in this short film? It befits the coolness I think these organisms have, rather than the hysterical watch-me-nearly-die antics and 4th-grade scripting approach (Top 10 most venomous animals!) which many popular modern animal shows lure viewers (A favorite card game of mine parodies one particularly popular version as “The Animal Bothering Show”). These images were captured by a remote rover operated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where presumably one very cool member of the staff thought to include the soundtrack. Anyone know where it’s really from?
So let’s talk about this particularly cool creature, Lampocteis cruentiventer. Their stomachs are always blood red; their bodies may come in various shades of the color. They can grow up to about 6 inches long — about the size of a hand — and they swim from about 1,000 to 3,300 feet down. That’s pretty deep, but not abyssal. Still, they probably never see much of the light of day.
Which, strangely enough, explains their brilliant red coloring. Red light is filtered most efficiently by water, and after traveling a few hundred feet down, there is very little left. Thus organisms that are red will appear gray or black in the deep, like a hole in the water. Thus, many deep sea creatures, when illuminated by explorers’ lights, appear lurid red.
Now let’s say, for the sake of argument, you live in the dark and like to eat things that glow. But dang it, you’re transparent! Now breakfast is causing you a bit of a problem that cannot be solved by Rolaids. Solution: encase your stomach in the undersea version of air raid curtains — red pigment. Hence the bloodbelly. (Although it does sound a bit like a better name for a grizzled jazz musician: “Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Blood Belly and tonight I’m going to play a little number for you I like to call . . . “)
Comb jellies are ctenophores (“ten’-o-fours”), which have eight cilia-bearing (small beating filaments) combs called ctenes with which they weakly swim. Whenever I have been lucky enough to visit an aquarium, I have spent many long minutes fogging up the glass staring at the undulating cilia of comb jellies. It’s a fascinating riot of colors and textures. The cilia make these the largest creatures to swim by such a mechanism, and give them a superficial resemblance to overgrown Paramecia. Both jellyfish and ctenophores have two cell layers separated by a gooey center, the mesogloea (mes-o-glee-a). This is a chief way they differ from us “higher” animals, who have a fancy middle layer we’ve parleyed into stomachs, livers, brains, gall bladders, spleens, appendices, giblets etc. Go us!
Comb jellies can also have two long tentacles. Instead of the famous stinging nematocysts that true jellyfish bear on their tentacles, comb jellies have sticky cells called colloblasts that rupture to release glue that captures their prey. They then retract the tentacles to bring their food to their mouths. Unlike jellyfish, which have a single opening to serve as mouth and anus (thank GOD evolution didn’t stick that particular system in vertebrates), ctenophores have one opening at the mouth and two at the back, though all three may serve when nature calls.
Scientists, as with most groups, are fighting constantly about how cnidarians(jellyfish, corals, and friends), ctenophores, and every animal more complex (usually referred to as a group called “Bilateria”, all the mirror-image symmetry animals) are related. As it’s a fight that’s enormously complicated and still ongoing, I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say, they ARE related. Here is one possible family tree.
One final note — ctenophores are also clearly an inspiration for the creatures in the 1989 movie “The Abyss“, a sci-fi classic you should see if you have not (though many in the know urge finding the director’s cut). A personal favorite. See here and here for some striking examples.
Discovered via Deep Sea News.