daniel stoupin, a doctoral candidate in marine biology at the university of queensland, has photographed a variety of coral species using full spectrum light to reveal fluorescent pigments that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. each piece (click pic for name) is from the great barrier reef. given the complexity of the techniques used, which involve time-lapse and stereoscopic and focus stacked photography, the images take up to ten hours to produce in the lab.
Wow. I thought these were computer-generated protein models or something at first, but these are brilliantly fluorescing corals!!
What might be seeing these stunning fluorescent displays? Coral aren’t known to have any photo-sensitivity (at least past the larval stage), so the obvious candidates are fish, whose eyes would be sensitive to the emitted fluorescent wavelengths.
Do fish like that exist? Earlier this year, researchers at the American Museum of Natural History were photographing their own corals’ fluorescence when they accidentally noticed one of their eels was fluorescing too. No one had noticed because the fluorescence is usually masked in the presence of broad visible light as seen by us land-lubbers.
It turns out that fluorescence in fish is surprisingly common. Water filters out long and medium wavelength light (reds and yellows) as it gets deeper, which is why it’s blue. To compensate for this limited spectral availability, fish have turned to fluorescence as a way to expand the wavelengths of communication and camouflage in their normally azure-monochrome world.
You can read more about the bright and bustling world of fluorescent fish at The New York Times.