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Underwater robots reveal the cannibalistic all-you-can-eat-buffet of the deep sea

The deep sea is stuffed with scaly and gelatinous creatures feasting on every different — and now we've an extraordinary view into this cannibalistic all-you-can-eat buffet.

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have analyzed 30 years’ price of movies taken via underwater robots off the coast of California, to higher perceive who’s consuming whom in the deep sea. Their findings, just lately printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, display that jellyfish are key predators, gobbling up an excellent selection of different species. One sort of jelly as an example, in the genus Solmissus, was once seen feasting on no less than 22 differing kinds of prey, from krill to worms to different jellyfish. That’s “pretty incredible for something that just looks like a clear dinner plate,” says learn about co-author Anela Choy, a postdoctoral fellow at MBARI.


Video courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
A Galaxy siphonophore catching a fish.

Historically, scientists had been finding out what deep-sea animals have for dinner via catching fish, opening them up, and actually counting what’s inside of their guts. That has some glaring obstacles: how simple can or not it's to spot a in part digested species? Gelatinous animals are in a specifically tricky spot, as a result of they decompose quicker when they’re eaten and in addition simply dissolve as soon as stuck in nets. To resolve those issues, scientists had been the usage of remotely operated automobiles (ROVs).

These underwater robots can dive deeper than two miles, and take high-definition movies of no matter creatures are doing down there — together with their meal occasions. Choy and her colleagues analyzed hundreds of hours of pictures of virtually 800 cases of animals feeding on every different, from tentacled siphonophores greedy little fish to clear jellyfish gobbling up pink shrimp.


Video courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Squids feasting on lanternfishes.

The scenes don’t get too gory, in step with Choy. Having spent loads of hours cutting up fish to check their intestine contents, “I’m sort of numb to the gore,” Choy tells The Verge. But they're once in a while stunning. Last July, Choy was once on a boat off the shore of Monterey Bay, taking a look at the video pictures transmitted via an ROV many toes underneath. A Gonatus squid was once noticed sucking off the face of a “really huge dragonfish,” she says. “It took a little while to figure out what’s going on here, who’s eating whom, how is this going to end?” (The squid gained.)

Overall, the movies printed simply how starving gelatinous creatures like comb jellies and medusae are, enjoying a vital function in the ocean meals internet. “Food webs are the backbone of our understanding of all life in the ocean,” Choy tells The Verge. And if we know how animals are attached thru feeding, then we will higher know how to preserve species and ecosystems, she says. So in some way, the tuna sandwich you devour is delivered to you via the feeding frenzy taking place in the darkish recesses of the ocean.

For your enjoyment, listed here are some extra postcards from that deep-ocean buffet. Bon appétit!


Photo: 2016 MBARI
Squid consuming squid.

Photo: 2017 MBARI
A feminine Haliphron atlanticus octopus protecting a Phacellophora camtschatica (egg-yolk jellyfish) in her hands.

Photo: MBARI
A medusa jelly (Halitrephes maasi) appearing off an eaten pink mysid shrimp in its clear frame.

Photo: MBARI
A helmet jelly (Periphylla periphylla) that has stuck two other kinds of prey: a gonatid squid (underneath) and a small medusa in the genus Aegina (at higher left).

Photo: MBARI
A dinner-plate-sized jelly in the genus Solmissus with a siphonophore in the genus Praya rolled up inside of the jelly.

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