Fantastic Find Friday: Back to Basics

Welcome to this week’s edition of Fantastic Finds found by our dedicated and keen-eyed community of citizen scientists here on the Plankton Portal.  As the weeks pass we are continually surprised by the sheer number of exciting and unique finds on the site.  There is rarely a dull moment here on the portal and we greatly appreciate our many users for their continued input and insight.  We have selected 5 stellar frames from a large collection of truly exceptional finds.  If you stumble upon an image you think is special select finish, click discuss, and tag it with #FFF for recognition on the Friday posts.  And off we go!

Salp; Ritteriella retracta – #Salp

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We are out of the gate running this week with this awe-inspiring, in-focus capture of a Salp.  What a lucky guy; most Salps don’t get the 5-minutes of fame they deserve!  It reminds me of some organic, underwater vacuum cleaner, which is not a far stretch given the foraging method these guys employ.  Salps are pelagic (open ocean) Tunicates that pump surrounding water through their tubular bodies, filtering out tasty organic matter with internal feeding structures, which are clearly visible here.  Yum!

We’d like to give a big ‘shout out’ to Elena Guerrero of Instituto de Ciencias Del Mar, Barcelona, Spain for the species-level ID.

Also, many thanks to user Yshish for this one which is perhaps my favorite find thus far on the site.  Since my work focuses on ctenophores, this may be a blasphemous statement.  I hope this assertion acts as incentive for the ctenophores to step up their game!

Pleurobrachia bachei – #Cydippid #Ctenophore

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This species of ctenophore is as classic a morphology as you can find within this phylum.  You can clearly see the eight ctene, or comb rows with the two on either side giving us an exceptional visual of their ciliated, hair-like structure.  These comb rows are used both for feeding and for locomotion.  If you look closely, you can also see the tentacle sheaths running internally towards the center oral canal, or ‘stomodaeum.’  The tentacles are extended here for foraging, but can be retracted into the body via the tentacle sheaths.  This is one of the larger cydippid ctenophores I have seen on the site and is a stellar capture!

 Siphonophore; Family Prayidae – #Rocketship #Thimble #Siphonophore #Behavior

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This capture of a prayine Siphonophore is a truly special find.  It seems ISIIS was at the right place at the right time as we captured this siphonophore in the process of asexually budding individual clonal copies of itself, also known as Zooids.  Siphonophores are colonial organisms composed of many specialized zooids, or single animals that together comprise the colonial animal, referred to as a zoon.  These individual zooids bud off from the stem of the siphonophore, which is the phenomenon on display here!  I am personally very glad that our species cannot reproduce asexually—could you imagine if that bully who teased you in middle school could make multiple clonal copies of him/herself?  I don’t think I would have survived all of those wedgies!

Cestid Ctenophore – #Cestida #Ctenophore

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Yet another really neat capture of the ribbon-like Cestid Ctenophore.  Although it may not appear like the cydippid ctenophore above, they both share many characteristics.  You can see here the comb rows along the top (oral) side of the organism, on the right side of the guy captured in this frame.  Like the cydippid ctenophores, these comb rows are used for both locomotion and foraging.  The stomodaeum, or oral canal is also visible here, seen as the apparent crease along the oral-aboral axis in the mid-section of the organism.  When it comes to locomotion, the Cestid ctenophores have a trick up their sleeve, able to move through the water column via undulation of their body.  This is what we are witnessing in this capture here.  Either that or this guy is dancing for the ISIIS camera.

Post-Flexion Larval Fish – #Fish

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Another really great find of one of the rarest organisms in this data set—fish larva, or ichthyoplankton!  The taxonomic ID for this guy is either an Engraulid (anchovy) or a Clupeid (sardine).  This one here is quite big, and is a post-flexion larval fish.  Larval fish pass through three substages, if they are lucky enough to survive during this extremely vulnerable period: preflexion, flexion, and postflexion.  These stages are in reference to the orientation and flexibility of the notochord, the rigid axial support that predates the formation of the vertebral column developmentally in chordate species.  Pre-flexion larval fish have a notochord that is incapable of movement required for locomotion and foraging.  Larval fish in this preliminary substage rely on a yolk sack provided for them in their early ontogeny.  Flexion, or the development of flexibility of the notochord occurs at roughly the same time the yolk sack is depleted.  This is a ‘critical period’ where the larval fish must find food within a short period of time, or the ichthyoplankton will not survive!  Thus, the temporal and spatial distribution of ichthyoplankton in the water column is a crucial determinant of their survival.  This guy is very lucky for having survived to this stage!  Let’s all give him a round of applause.

We hope this was an informative and fun view into some of the many awesome critters found by ISIIS and our citizen scientists.  Until next time!

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Ctenophore, a soft bodied but voracious predator

Also known as Comb jellies or sea gooseberries. The name comes from the Greek Ctena (comb) and Phora (bearer). They first appeared more 500 million years ago!

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A little Beroida

These are plankton predators which can swim with the help of a several rows of cilia. Some catch their food with long fishing tentacles laden with sticky cells (colloblast) like the #Cydippids.

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Cydippid showing its deadly tentacles

Others can engulf their meal directly like the #Lobates. They can consume anything from other ctenophores, copepods to fish larva. The weirdest of all is the #Cestida which body plan is totally flat, yet it has all the attributes the Ctenophore group!

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Lobate ctenophore ready to engulf anything in its path.

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Cestida the weirdest of all. it body is flat and shaped like a ribbon

One species (Mnemiopsis Leidyi) was accidentally introduced in the black sea via ship ballast water coming from the Atlantic Ocean. Result: local fisheries collapsed due to M. Leidyi appetite for fish larvae.

Here is an amazing Ctenophore video from our Plankton Chronicles colleagues. Shimmering waves of light, stalking their prey, ctenophores are on the move.
Plankton Chronicles Project by Christian Sardet, CNRS / Noe Sardet and Sharif Mirshak, Parafilms
See Plankton Chronicles interactive site: planktonchronicles.org

Fantastic Find Fridays! #FFF

Today we wanted to share with you a few of the amazing critters found by the Plankton Portal Citizen Scientists! There have been many thousands of zooplankton that have been identified in just the 3 days since launch and these are some of the best captures. Every Friday we will post a selection of Fantastic Finds. If you think you have found something really neat on the portal then tag #FFF and we will check it out for use on the blog. Now, to introduce some of the beautiful zooplankton found on Plankton Portal :

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Lilyopsis rosea –#Sipho #TwoCups

The siphonophore posing for the camera in this frame is a brilliant example of some of the intricate, alien and beautiful forms of life that have evolved within the open ocean. While this guy may resemble a single ‘jelly-fish’ superficially, siphonophores are actually colonial organisms with multiple specialized bodies functioning together. What teamwork!

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Larvacean and Mucous House — #Larvacean #Larvaceanhouse

This is a great capture of a larvacean next to its elaborate and beautiful mucous house. Larvaceans are part of the Tunicate subphyla and are therefore chordates, not invertebrates like many of the zooplankton critters encountered by ISIIS. Larvaceans draw particulate matter into their mucous house by beating their tadpole-like bodies. They are known to create, discard, and remake a number of houses within the span of a single day! These houses not only help the larvacean collect food but also play an important role in the Carbon cycle as it has been recently discovered that discarded house export a significant amount of organic matter to depth.

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Thalassocalyce inconstans — #Thalasso

This dome-shaped critter may resemble a medusa but is in actuality a Comb Jelly, or Ctenophore. Thalassocalyce feeds on other zooplankton by spreading their body wide open to collect prey and contracting the bell closed as the unlucky plankton approaches the ctenophores mouth. Looks like this guy is on the hunt!

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Asexual Doliolid ‘Nurse’ — #DoliolidwithTail

Doliolids are a fascinating order of marine Tunicates with a complex life cycle that alternates between sexual and asexual generations. The beautiful guy captured in this frame will produce a huge number of asexually grown progeny that will bud off from the tail, or stalk, on display here. The barrel-shaped body of this guy here contains two siphons that facilitate filter-feeding of the matter suspended in the water column.

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Cestid Ctenophore — #Cestida

The ribbon-like critter in this image represents a very unique group of Ctenophore, or Comb Jelly. On display here are many of the features that define these zooplankters. Along the ‘top’ edge of this Cestida, you can see the comb row, a group of cilia that it uses for feeding. The mouth is seen here as an apparent crease across the middle of the organism and faces away from the comb rows. Maybe some lucky Citizen Scientist will find the other half of this guy!

We hope this has been a fun and informative introduction to a few of the many beautiful critters that ISIIS has shown us! Looking forward to the next Fantastic Find Fridays