Seeing the Unseen

Trying to imagine what life is like for animals inhabiting the deep ocean is an enormous challenge. Because so many have fantastic eyes, it’s evident that vision plays a major role in their existence. And the light they have evolved to see – living light, called bioluminescence – is apparently equally fantastic. There are built-in flashlights for finding food, glowing lures for attracting prey, sexually dimorphic (i.e., different in males and females) light organs for attracting mates, nozzles that can squirt light into the eyes of an attacking predator, exquisite optical structures on the bellies of many fish, squid, and shrimp that can function as camouflage and a plethora of light organs with no known function. How can we ever hope to find out how all these extraordinary lights are used?

 

The trick is to be able to observe unobtrusively. That’s what the Medusa is designed to do. By illuminating with a red light that most deep-sea inhabitants can’t see and using an optical lure that imitates a common bioluminescent jellyfish, it aims to attract and see the previously unseen.

 

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