I’m very pleased to announce that my photo of an ostracod ejecting a bioluminescent plume has been featured in the Scientific American blog The Artful Amoeba by Jennifer Frazer! I took this shot with the help of Nikolai Hensley at the Todd Oakley lab at UCSB back in February 2014. The blog post also features video footage of the ostracods’ underwater display from the documentary ‘Hunt for the Giant Squid’, made by Ammonite for National Geographic channel. I’m currently developing a system to photograph more bioluminescent critters and trying to find funding for a broader bioluminescence photo project. Please get in touch if you have a bioluminescent creature you need help photographing.
My experiences so far in Natural History Television have left me with a profound fascination with bioluminescence, that is, the ability of some organisms (including most marine life) to produce light. Its functions and evolutionary origins are manyfold, but the best people to explain are the experts. See this review paper on bioluminescence for the science. I first encountered the phenomenon in Belize in 2011 while working on a National Geographic television show (see Hunt for the Giant Squid below). We were guided by Jim Morin who has dedicated much of his career to studying the courtship displays of Ostracod species (a small crustacean, 2-3mm in size) in the Caribbean. The species of Ostracod found in that area of the Caribbean use bioluminescence in a dazzling and complex mating display. To see the Ostracods displaying in their natural habitat was amazingly beautiful, like a slow motion firework display under the sea. When the show went on air, it was probably the first time these courtship displays had been seen on television.
Todd Oakley also has a great blog, often featuring these fascinating animals.
The species of ostracod shown here is Photeros annecohenae