Fantastic Find Fridays: Feb 2016

Hey plankton hunters!  We are bringing you another round of Fantastic Finds from the Plankton Portal.  Citizen scientists continue to reel in new captures of some truly awesome plankton.  Here are just a few neat finds, ID’s, and novel taxa:

Pteropod mollusk

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Did you ever learn about marine butterflies in grade-school?  Well good, because there is no such thing as a marine butterfly.  This elegant-looking critter is a pteropod, a type of gastropod mollusk—in other words, a slug!  These mollusks are highly adapted for life in the water-column, as you can see from the butterfly-like wings, (or “parapodia” to a malacologist).  The pteropod wings are actually a highly-modified molluskan foot, i.e. the muscular and slime-secreting mass that slugs glide on.  Evolution really did these slugs a favor, as I do not think anyone could say “ewww!” to such a beautiful animal.

Calycophoran Siphonophore

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Now this is a fantastic image.  A close-up, finely-detailed capture of the head (nectosome) portion of a calycophoran siphonophore—so aptly referred to as a “rocket-ship sipho” here on the Plankton Portal.  The two siphon-like features propelling this colonial critter are very apparent in this image.  Maybe, in truth, siphon-ophore is a pretty apt name for this plankter as well.

Ctenophore: Thalassocalyce inconstans

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Thalassocalyce inconstans is a predatory species of ctenophore, captured feeding in this frame.  The body of the ctenophore is contracted and engorged about the anteroposterior (vertical) axis, giving it the appearance of an inflated, heart-shaped balloon.  Within the fragile and transparent body, you can see the 8 condensed comb rows captured as an array of ragged segments crowning the aboral end.  Fine mesenterial canals also appear as contoured markings that line the engorged body. Ctenophores are tactile predators, meaning all predatory behavior is triggered by physical, non-visual stimulus.  Something in the water column bumped into this Thalasso and got it all riled up, providing ISIIS a great opportunity for this detailed capture of foraging behavior.  If we had a hydrophone for this deployment, I am fairly certain a satisfied lip-smacking would be recorded in a few seconds.

Copepods: Families Eucalanidae and Metridinidae. 

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Copepods are abundant in these ISIIS data, and it is easy to forget what a broad diversity of these important crustaceans are classified on the site.  Here we have two broadly identifiable PP copepods for sample.  The image on the left shows a copepod belonging to the family Eucalinidae: it has a narrow, torpedo-shaped body and the anterior end of the head forms a pointed-triangle.  We think this critter might be a Rhincalanus spp.—if you look close you might be able to make out a small rostrum-like appendage extending forward and tucked down from the head, as well as what may be lateral spination at the end of each mid-body segment (prosome).  This guy’s cruising, antennas spread out and scanning the surroundings.  On the right, we have a copepod belonging to the family Metridinidae, perfectly poised for the ISIIS cam.  How do we guess this ID?  At the end of this copepods lengthy tail (urosome), look closely at the paired fin-like feature (ferka).   Along the outer edge, right before the separation of the individual ferka, can you make out a small, skirt-like protrusion?  If so, just tell your buddies: “hmm, check out that lengthy urosome and ferka segmentation; it must be a Metrinidae species,” and blamo—you are a crustacean taxonomist!

Anthomedusae: Leukartia spp.

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At first glance, you might be thinking “is this medusae sticking its tongue out at me?” Or maybe it is sporting a ten-gallon hat?  While I couldn’t blame you for such outlandish assertions (I mean, who would write such silly things?), this odd anthomedusae is readily identified to genus by the conical appendage extending from the bell (“apical process”) and causing much confusion on the Plankton Portal.  In this image we get a great view of many internal and external features of this Leukartia sp., including a crenulated (ragged) bell margin, a tall mouth (“manubrium”) in the center of the bell, and many long tentacles projected both downwards and in front of the bell.

Larvacean and mucous house

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We find a good deal of larvaceans on the site, but this capture is a real beauty.  Larvaceans are gelatinous plankton that filter-feed on detritus in the water column.  You see the critter poking its head out, like the cap on a rolled-up toothpaste tube?  That’s the larvacean, curled up in preparation to pump surrounding detritus through its elaborate mesh-like mucous house.  For a critter that takes up residency in its own secretion, this guy is pretty adorable!

Physonect Siphonophore

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Now this is quite the fantastic find!  Here we are looking at a large siphonophore projecting numerous tentacles across the frame.  It is all-hands-on-deck for this colonial jelly, as it is putting on a mighty foraging display for us.  The big guy is hungry—watch out, ISIIS.

There have been way too many great images to fit in this small serving of photogenic plankton.  We look forward to serving up more fantastic finds in the future.  Keep exploring, plankton hunters!

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From the citizen scientists: #FFF

This week, we asked one of our top volunteers, Zuzana, a very lovely lady from the Czech Republic, to pick her favorite images for a special Fantastic Finds Friday (FFF) post. She went way above and beyond — did research on her own, wrote up information and background — and we are very pleased to present to you this week’s #FFF post.


Hello everyone. My name is Zuzana, also known as the user Yshish. I was asked by Jessica of the scientist team to put together my favorite pictures from this amazing Plankton Portal and write a short FFF post about them. So here they are:

*The first of my most favorite finds for the last week is definitely this beauty – Aegina citrea.

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[http://talk.planktonportal.org/#/subjects/APK0006f6z]

This image of Aegina citrea was captured at a depth of 43.42 m and at temperature of 13.55°C.

Aegina citrea

Aegina is one of the jellyfish belonging to the Narcomedusae Order, like its more familiar relative Solmaris.

Members of this order do not normally have a polyp stage. The medusa has a dome-shaped bell with thin sides. The tentacles are attached above the lobed margin of the bell with a gastric pouch typically found above each. There are no bulbs on the tentacles and no radial canals. Narcomedusa are mostly inhabitants of the open ocean and deep waters.

A. citrea is a very rare species in the Plankton Portal images but if you were lucky to get an image with it, mark it as a 4tentacles medusa and start a discussion with using #Aegina tag.

An additional note: Narcomedusa ‘babies’ are very interesting, and act as parasites on other jellies after exiting the mother! Check out this link:

CreatureCast – Narcomedusae from Casey Dunn.

* The second find I chose for this post is my favorite species: ‘Thalasso’ – Thalassocalyce inconstans.

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This is a compilation of three separate Plankton Portal images. The Thalasso on the top right was caught while feeding! You can see him opening his ‘mouth’ widely to catch something tasty in the water!

Thalassocalyce inconstans, which we have nicknamed ‘thalasso’ on the Portal, belongs to the phylum Ctenophora – the comb jellies. The Order Thalassocalycida contains only one known species first described in 1978 [Madin and Harbison 1978]. They are closely related to the other ctenophore Orders such as Lobata, Cydippida and Cestidae.

They have an extremely fragile body that can reach 15 cm in width and is shortened in the oral-aboral direction. Thalassocalyce have short comb-rows on the surface furthest from the mouth, originating from near the aboral pole. They capture prey by movements of the bell as you can see in the pictures.

To me they look like an opened umbrella with a beautiful distinct linear drawing engraved on it. Their look is simply beautiful!

Also I can’t forget to mention that I’m fascinated by their bioluminescent abilities. The wavelength of the emitted light from Thalassocalyce is 491 nm (SHD Haddock & JF Case 1999).

* The third fantastic find is this beautiful ‘Corncob Sipho’ – Physonect siphonophore – Forskalia genus.

51d1bdbb3ae74008a401f2ed[http://talk.planktonportal.org/#/subjects/APK00029a8]

Physonect siphonophore

The Siphonophores are an order of the Hydrozoa, a class of marine invertebrates belonging to the phylum Cnidaria which include coral and ‘jellyfish.’ Although a siphonophore appears to be a single organism, each specimen is actually a colony composed of many individual animals. Most colonies are long, thin, transparent organisms that float in the open ocean.

All of the zooids of a physonect colony are arranged on a long stem. This stem has a gas filled float known as a pneumatophore at one end. That’s the funny ‘nose’ we are used to seeing and are typical of the Physonectae family of siphonophores.

Just behind the pneumatophore are the nectophores. These are powerful medusae specialized for moving the colony through the water. They contract in coordination, propelling the entire colony forward, backwards, and in turns. The region of the colony containing the nectophores is called the nectosome.

Just behind the nectosome is the siphosome, which has all of the remaining zooids of the colony. These include feeding polyps capture food with their single, long tentacle, providing nourishment for the entire colony. [http://www.siphonophores.org/SiphPlan.php]
Siphonophores catch prey by putting out their long tentacles and waiting for something to bump into them.

Here is a nice schematic of a physonect siphonophore which could help you understand these awesome creatures:

Physonect siphonophore diagram – Casey Dunn

* My fourth pick is another Siphonophore, this fascinating ‘Thimble Rocket-ship’ – one of the Sphaeronectes genera captured here in a stunning feeding display.

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[http://talk.planktonportal.org/#/subjects/APK0005o03]

You can see that he’s able to cover all the space around himself with his branching tail. It looks almost like a spiderweb to me. In this position he’s waiting for other plankton swimming around to catch and eat.

As I mentioned above, Sphaeronectes is a genus of the Siphonophorae order.

Most siphonophores capture their prey by trapping it with special side branches (termed tentilla) which originate from the tentacle of each gastrozooid. During feeding, the tentilla and the tentacles are extended into the water to form a large transparent net. The prey is first ensnared by the terminal filament and its entangling cnidae (stinging cells). The terminal filament then contracts, bringing the prey into the cnidoband, which contains many stinging cells. (Mackie and Marx 1988; Mackie 1999). [Siphonophora (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa) of Canadian Pacific Waters. Gillian M. Mapstone,Mary N. Arai]

* My final favorite find is this fish – probably a Clupeid (Herring)

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[http://talk.planktonportal.org/#/subjects/APK0004ajk]

Clupeidae is the family of the herrings, shads, sardines, hilsa and menhadens. It includes many of the most important food fishes in the world. Clupeids typically feed on plankton, and range from 2 to 75 centimetres in length. After hatching, the larvae are planktonic and live among other plankton until they metamorphose and grow into adults. The adults typically live in large shoals in the coastal oceans.

The larvae are 5 to 6 millimetres long at hatching and have a small yolk sac for nourishment that is absorbed by the time the larva reaches 10 millimetres. Only the eyes are well pigmented while it is a larva. The rest of the body is nearly transparent, virtually invisible under water and in natural lighting conditions.

The larvae are very slender and can easily be distinguished from all other young fish of their range by the location of the vent, which lies close to the base of the tail and is an opening for excretion of eggs and sperm. But distinguishing clupeids from other types of larval fish at this stage requires expertise and close examination. ISIIS images are of a high enough resolution to allow experts to determine the taxa of larval fish captured in the data!


I hope the article wasn’t too boring for you and that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. And do not forget, if you think you’ve found something really neat on the Portal use hashtag #FFF in the discussion boards. I can’t wait to see what else will be found next! Big thanks to Ben Grassian for the consultations!

-Zuzana

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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