Invertebrates

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From the giant squid to microscopic squid babies, squids are beautiful and fascinating. As cephalopods, the same family as octopuses and cuttlefish, they have no bones, and swim head-first through the water with their...
Since summer 2013, starfish along both coasts of the United States have been...
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Tiny plant-like organisms called zooxanthellae live in the tissues of many...
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I have been at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since 1966...

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A huge colony of brittlestars (likely Ophiacantha rosea ) covers the peak of a seamount in the deep ocean. What’s the attraction? Food! Their arms reach out for tiny food particles carried by the swift Antarctic Circumpolar...
This copepod Calanus hyperboreus (up to 7mm in length) lives in the Arctic...
Deep-sea corals miles away from the source of the Deepwater Horizon oil...

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Sample the surprising diversity of deep-sea corals. See some of the ways they differ in color, shape, and size. Explore more...
Like octopods and cuttlefishes, giant squid have eight arms. But they use their two much longer feeding tentacles to seize prey. The tentacles have powerful suckers at the ends. More about the giant...
Light refracts off the comb-rows of the Mertensia ovum , a ctenophore , producing stripes of rainbow colors . The jelly eats copepods and small crustaceans that become stuck to its sticky tentacles...
Zombie worms ( Osedax roseus ) eat away at the bones of a dead whale that has fallen to the seafloor in Sagami Bay, Japan. These bizarre worms rely on whale bones for energy and are what scientists...
An octopus shoots ink in defense as it swims away from a scuba diver.
The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you will encounter a school of fish and their attendant predators, but most of the life that you find is gathered around...
During the 2012 field season of the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) in Curaçao, Smithsonian scientists collected many specimens with the help of the Curasub . Prospective new species were caught...
Last week, Smithsonian research zoologists Dr. Jerry Harasewych and Dr. Martha Nizinski were in Curaçao looking for deep-sea marine gastropods and decapod crustaceans , respectively. I learned they...
This species of amphipod , Eusirus holmii , was found both at the surface of Arctic waters and as deep as 2000 meters (6562 feet). Researchers have found that while the amphipod inhabits the sea ice...
Inside the giant squid's sharp beak is a tongue-like organ called the radula (shown in yellow). Covered with rows of tiny teeth, it rams bite size pieces of food down the squid's throat. The pieces...
Sunset? Time to glow! A biological clock triggers bioluminescence in the dinoflagellate Pyrocystis fusiformis . At dusk, cells produce the chemicals responsible for its light. Hear from marine...
This sea potato ( Echinocardium cordatum ) looks similar to its root vegetable namesake, but it's a sea urchin! The spines on this urchin are more hair-like than the spikes seen on some more commonly...
A “pink meanie” jellyfish ( Drymonema larsoni )—a species found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean—feeds on a moon jelly ( Aurelia ). Dr. Keith Bayha from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Dr...
Despite the cold and dark environment, soft-bodied animals like anemones abound under the ice. Using their sticky arms, they grab zooplankton, which can be hard to come by during the long winter with...
The giant squid is among the largest invertebrates on Earth, but this deep sea creature has rarely been observed by humans -- alive. Over the centuries, many dead giant squid have washed up on the...
I have been at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since 1966, studying and reporting on all kinds of octopuses and squids . But I’ve always had a particular fascination with the...
Nudibranchs are mollusks that have evolved from shelled ancestors. Like the reddish-orange Coryphella verrucosa shown here, they're often noted for their vibrant colors and striking forms. View other...
Using a deep-diving ROV, the crew aboard Oceana’s research vessel Ranger were surprised to discover large colonies of deep-sea white coral in the Western Mediterranean Sea in July 2010. Most of the...
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