Luminous Creatures Found Living on Mollusks in the Red Sea

Posted on February 29, 2016

Fluorescent polyps on gastropod shells in southern Red Sea

Small luminous creatures have been found living on the shells of mollusks in the southern Red Sea. The creatures are a new species of fluorescent polyps. They live in colonies on the shells of gastropods. They were found on the shells of the gastropod Nassarius margaritifer.

The polyps were discovered by an international team of biologists that included researchers from the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Science. The researchers examined coral reefs of the archipelago Farasan using UV-light with yellow filters. The researchers say they discovered these "fluorescent lanterns" that were very similar to hydrae but live in colonies unlike their distant relatives.

Vyacheslav Ivanenko, a co-author of the paper and leading researcher at the Department of Invertebrate Zoology of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, says in a statement, "Sea hydroids, unlike hydrae, are often found in colonies and can branch off tiny jellyfish. The unusual green glow of these hydrozoas (presumably, a new species of the genus Cytaeis, whose body length reaches 1.5 mm) was revealed in the peristomal area of the body."

The zoologists suggest the glow around the mouth of polyps may attract prey. The fluorescence emission of the new species has a spectral peak at 518 nm. A research paper on the new sea polyps was published here in the journal PLOS One.

Photo: Viatcheslav N. Ivanenko et al.