Invertebrates

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Octopuses are colorblind, but manage to blend into the background seamlessly—or stand out in bright color to startle their enemies. So how do they do it? That's the question Roger Hanlon of the Marine...
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Fever. Aching muscles. Coughing. Sniffling. It’s flu season . Have you had your...
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The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you...
Dr. Clyde Roper discusses the fascinating anatomy of the giant squid (...

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In Antarctica's Southern Ocean swims a beautiful polychaete (bristly worm) called Tomopteris carpenteri , which is adorned with alternating red and transparent bands. The largest species in its genus, it it found throughout the...
In the Coral Triangle, a biodiverse area between Indonesia and the...
This beautiful jewel squid ( Histioteuthis bonnellii ) can be found swimming...

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Jellyfish and comb jellies are gelatinous animals that drift through the ocean's water column around the world. They are...
The European green crab ( Carcinus maenas ) has spread far beyond its native continent, to waters off North and South America, Asia and Australia. It's a voracious eater and poses a nuisance to...
Species of deep-sea gold coral, or Gerardia , often have a tree-like shape, as you can see in this specimen. See more pictures of coral in our Deep-sea Corals article.
The yeti crab ( Kiwa hirsuta ), an unusual, hairy crab with no eyes, was discovered in 2005 on a hydrothermal vent near Easter Island. It represents not only a new species but also a new genus— Kiwa...
“Lembeh Strait is a fantastic place to find species that have evolved to resemble other animals or plants to survive. Because of the lens I was using, I had to get really close to this crab. As I...
What are corals? Corals themselves are animals. But tropical reef-building corals have tiny plant-like organisms living in their tissue. The corals couldn’t survive without these microscopic algae–...
Male fiddler crabs each have a single super-sized claw that they use as a weapon to threaten and fight other males and as beautiful adornment to attract females. Here, see a video of two male dancing...
Bill Taylor, Paul Taylor, Diani Taylor and Brittany Taylor have more in common than just a last name; they also share a business. The Taylors have been in the family oyster-farming business in...
This deep-sea urchin ( Echinocrepis rostrata ) is an important “bulldozer.” It turns over sediment and exposes prey as it moves across the ocean floor, leaving a trail of tracks behind. This photo...
What is this bizarre, spiky-looking organism? Hint: it can be found in tropical areas of the Pacific and Indian ocean basins crawling slowly over coral reefs and devouring any living coral polyps...
The lion’s mane jellyfish ( Cyanea capillata ) is the largest among the jelly species, with the largest known specimen stretching across 120 feet (36.5 meters) from its top to the bottom of its...
How many animals swim in the sea? It's not easy to count them all. To get a feel for the ocean's diversity, scientists, such as those involved in the Census of Marine Life , sail out on research...
Boring sponges get a bad rap. Their own name betrays them, announcing to the world that they are unexciting, ordinary and quite frankly, boring. However, if ever a misnomer existed, this is it. More...
Staghorn (seen here) and elkhorn corals are listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Specis Act, as their numbers have fallen catastrophically due to disease. Listed in 2006, they were the only...
Many sperm whales stranded on beaches or caught by whalers exhibit telltale circular scars like these. Only one thing could have made them: the strong suckers that line the giant squid’s eight arms...
In 1874 Reverend Moses Harvey of Newfoundland displayed the giant squid he bought on the side of his barn, much to the dismay of Mrs. Harvey. More about the giant squid can be found in our Giant...
The Smithsonian's Department of Invertebrate Zoology has a collection of over 57,000 specimens from over 5,700 sites in the Gulf of Mexico, which are now catalogued on Google Earth . Below is a tiny...
Ochre seastars ( Pisaster ochraceus ) feed on invertebrates, such as coral and shellfish, like the mussels pictured here. The starfish forces open the shell with suction disks on the underside of its...
The festive Christmas tree worm ( Spirobranchus giganteus ) lives on tropical coral reefs and resembles a fluffy fir tree adorned with ornaments. The multi-functional branch-like appendages are used...
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