A Lesson in Bioluminescence

Curator of Mollusks Liz Shea, Ph.D. has been working hard on new exhibits for the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science, including Diel Vertical Migration and Submersible Interactive exhibits. Diel Vertical Migration is a form of migration when organisms move to the uppermost layer of the sea during the night, and swim back to the bottom during daylight. Though mostly unseen, Diel Vertical Migration is one of the greatest migrations in the world, in terms of biomass.

In order to portray the fascinating underwater migration these mollusks undergo, one of a kind displays are created for each specimen. Lucy and Hannah joined Liz in the lab to collect photos and measurements for the new displays.

We learned that a lot of the organisms that participate in Diel Vertical Migration exhibit bioluminescence, the production and emission of light by a living organism. These animals live in the deep, dark depths of the ocean, and their bioluminescence allows them to find and lure prey, while also warding off predators. In the lab, we photographed and studied these fascinating mollusks and fish up close. Liz taught us about these unique animals as we prepared them for their photos. We cannot wait to see these fascinating animals on display in the new Museum!

Atlantic Silver Hatchet Fish

Argyropelecus aculeatus

Also known as the lovely hatchet fish, the Atlantic Silver Hatchet fish live in the mesopelagic zone of the ocean and participate in diel vertical migration. This species of fish has scales that reflect a silver, metallic shine. These beautiful scales are used to lure prey in the deep sea.

Cirrate Octopod

Stauroteuthis syrtensis

Also known as the flowing sucker octopus or bioluminescent octopus. This octopus is one of the few octopuses to exhibit bioluminescence. Deep sea species from the North Atlantic have been known to swim as deep 13,100 feet in the ocean. During vertical migration, they use their small fins at the top of their heads alongside their tentacles to form a parachute like sphere to propel themselves upwards.

Scaly Dragonfish

Stomias boa

Scaly Dragonfish can be found in the Eastern Atlantic, in depths as far as 3,300 feet. They have long, slender bodies with pointed jaws. Their bodied are covered in transparent scales with iridescent speckles. Like most bioluminescent fish it is able to turn its bioluminescence on and off to confuse their prey.