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This “Sea Sapphire” Glows Like A Star Underwater

This “Sea Sapphire” Glows Like A Star Underwater

What in the heck is that?

That’s the question jellyfish researcher (yes, there is such a thing) Rebecca Helm asked when she first caught a glimpse of something bright blue flickering in the corner of her eye…but when she turned to look, it was gone. She might have dismissed it as a hallucination, except that it kept happening, and when she investigated, she finally found the culprit: a marine organism she’s dubbed a “sea sapphire” in honor of its brilliant blue color.

What exactly is a sea sapphire, other than something seriously cool, weird and beautiful? It’s a copepod (related to shrimp) with a distinctive translucent shell. Layers of crystals inside the shell perfectly reflect blue when the light hits them, and when they shift position, the flash is gone again. The flashy color helps the ladies spot them (always useful).

Copepods have been around a very long time, so apparently the bright blue flash isn’t a serious evolutionary problem — with their large numbers, even if they do experience significant predation, they have enough to survive.

The translucence of the shell offers another nifty feature: that psychedelic blue also lights up all their internal organs, offering a sort of x-ray view of the insides of their bodies. Maybe not quite to everyone’s tastes, but it still offers a fascinating look into the inner workings of these amazing critters.

Sapphirina copepods, as they’re more formally known, are found all over the world in varying numbers, and they’re a rare sight at sea. Helm was lucky to get a chance to see one, and we’re lucky to have a beautiful video to watch so we can get a glimpse secondhand! These stunning creatures drift through the water column in the hopes that they’ll hook up with some lady sea sapphire cuties (who live parasitically in jellyfish) to spread the species around a little.

These glorious creatures are a reminder that you never know what you’re going to find in the ocean, and that there’s a whole lot more below the surface that we haven’t even discovered or fully begun to understand yet. That’s why marine conservation is so critical — without the hard work of naturalists, researchers and environmentalists, we’d be losing precious and fascinating organisms like this one, perhaps before anyone ever even had a chance to see them and share with us.

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139 comments

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11:46AM PDT on Mar 18, 2014

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

9:25AM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

Wow ... absolutely amazing .... . isn't nature wonderful?

2:29AM PST on Mar 8, 2014

that is way cool!

12:49PM PST on Mar 7, 2014

Thank you.

3:39PM PST on Mar 5, 2014

cool

8:58AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

AWESOME ARTICLE, EVEN IF THERE ARE A LOT MORE IMPORTANT ARTICLES, THANK YOU!!

2:50PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Pretty amazing!

12:54PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Mystery and beauty all rolled up in one magnificent creature. Thanks for sharing. I'm with Janice - we need more articles like this one!

5:32AM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Mary Jane R. - sorry to say it but whether you like it or not, you do belong to this species.. none of us have the choice really..

the thing is to be different from those people you refer to as "them"

11:41PM PST on Mar 2, 2014

Wow Pretty Amazing.

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