“The brainchild of longtime friends Colin Foord and Jared McKay, MORPHOLOGIC concocts installations that combine sound and light to transform the minute creatures that inhabit our coral reefs into strange, abstract works of surreal art. In the process, they bridge the gap that has long divided science and art. But don’t let appearances fool you; their work also captures a world that speaks volumes about the social interactions in the concrete spaces we create far above the ocean’s surface.” – Jorge Casuso, Miami New Times

Morphologic Studios

Morphologic Studios on vimeo

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‘The Lynx Nudibranch’  (Natural History Episode 14)
Last week we spent a moment making eyes with the oyster (Spondylus americanus). This week we’ll spend a moment with a diverse community of animals and plants that have colonized the upper shell of the very same oyster.  
Read the full description here:

‘The Sun Coral’  (Natural History Episode 9)
This week’s video features a cluster of identical Tubastrea coccinea coral polyps feeding on passing plankton (rotifers). The film is sped up 10 times to emphasize the feeding abilities and coordination between the sticky tentacles and the polyps’ mouths. 

Tubastrea coccinea or ‘Sun Corals’, have an unusual background story, being the only invasive stony coral to become established in the Caribbean basin. Native to the tropical Indo-Pacific Oceans, they were first noted living on ships’ hulls in Puerto Rico and Curacao (Southern Caribbean) in the mid 1940’s. Over the ensuing decades, they eventually spread elsewhere throughout the entire Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico on the prevailing water currents. It is believed that these sun corals may have originally entered our region as larval stow-aways in the ballast water of intercontinental ships that passed through the Panama Canal. 

‘Cleaner’ Pt. 3  (Natural History Episode 21)
The sun anemone shrimp (Periclimenes rathbunae) is the least common of the three species of Floridian anemone shrimp. While the other two anemone shrimp (P. pedersoni and P. yucatanicus) act as cleaners to passing fish, the sun anemone shrimp doesn’t seem to engage in this behavior. Instead, it spends its time living almost exclusively upon its namesake sun anemone (Stichodactyla helianthus). Aquarium observations suggest that this shrimp may supplement its diet by occasionally nipping off and eating the tentacles of the anemone. This parasitism suggests a more complicated symbiotic relationship than the sort of simple mutualism that these shrimp are often categorized by. 

‘Transmission’  (Natural History Episode 19)
The tiger flatworm (Pseudoceros crozieri) is a stunning species of flatworm that can be found living on rocks and mangrove roots along the shores of the Caribbean. Colonial orange tunicates (Ecteinascidia turbinata) constitute the tiger flatworm’s only food-source. At 35mm in length, it is considerably larger than the previously featured red flatworms. As simultaneous hermaphrodites, the tiger flatworm often travels as pairs and mate regularly. Their pseudotentacle antennae help aid them in finding mates by detecting chemical cues in the water. 

Locomotion in this larger flatworm species is accomplished by rippling muscle contractions along the edges of the animal, and aided by a slippery mucous slime. The video is shown in real time.

‘The Lettuce Slug’  (Natural History Episode 18)
Lettuce sea slugs (Elysia crispata) are a commonly found in protected nearshore Floridian waters where green macroalgae proliferates. They belong to a clan of sea slugs, the sarcoglossans, that are characterized by their ‘sap-sucking’ feeding habits of algae. These slugs slowly patrol mangrove roots and rocks searching for green algae upon which they feed. They store some of the chloroplasts from eaten algae in their tissue, giving it the green coloration. The chloroplasts continue to function, providing the slug with photosynthetic energy. The ruffles along the back of the lettuce sea slug are called parapodia, and help provide more surface area for the chloroplasts to inhabit. They also camouflage the slug amongst the leafy algae that they live amongst. It is very easy to swim past a lettuce nudibranch without ever noticing it.

‘Purple Forest’  (Natural History Episode 7)
This week’s video features an aquascape comprised of the beautiful purple macro algae Asparagopsis taxiformis. However, if you pay close attention to the left 1/3 of the screen, you’ll notice something… moving with claws… Nestled amongst the algae is a perfectly camouflaged decorator crab (Microphrys bicornuta). Keep paying attention… at 26 seconds into the clip you’ll notice a tiny isopod crustacean float by in the current and descend helicopter-style right onto the crab’s back. The unsuspecting isopod has no idea that it has landed upon an algae covered beast. Furthermore, it appears that the crab is not aware of the unexpected visitor until the isopod begins to explore its decorated exoskeleton. 50 seconds into the clip the isopod meets its fate with a few swift snatches of the crab’s claws. Without missing a beat, the crab continues scavenging amongst the rocks and algae. And life on the reef goes on…

Decorator crabs are amazing creatures in that they pick up pieces of their surrounding habitat and place them on their carapace (back, exoskeleton) in order to blend into their surroundings. Decorator crabs that live amongst sponges decorate with sponges, those that live amongst zoanthids use zoanthids, and so on. This instinctual logic is truly remarkable. The crab in the video has attached small pieces of the Asparagopsis upon itself, and as a result is all but indistinguishable from its surroundings.

‘Corynactis viridis’  (Natural History Episode 6)
In this video a single Corynactis viridis corallimorph polyp (about 8mm in diameter) is seen capturing and digesting tiny plankton as they flow past in the current. As the tentacles capture food, they retract towards the animal’s mouth, located at the center of the polyp. The mouth is likewise transformable; capable of extending, expanding, and enveloping food items. The total elapsed time was roughly 12 minutes and sped up 1200% in order to demonstrate the hydraulic muscular contractions and contortions that the polyp goes through while feeding. 470nm LED light is used to highlight the fluorescent orange ring around the outer diameter of the polyp.

‘Transparency’  (Natural History Episode 12)
Featured in the the video is a unidentified shrimp that lives commensally on Ricordea sp. corallimorph polyps. Unlike the other commensal anemone/corallimorph shrimp (Periclimenes pedersoni, P. yucatanicus) that are active fish cleaners, this shrimp moves considerably less. In fact it is nearly invisible. The transparency of this shrimp is such that if you look carefully in the middle of its abdomen, you’ll notice its beating heart. Even the fluorescent pink ring around the edge of the unidentified ricordea polyp’s mouth is visible through the shrimp’s tail.

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2 thoughts on “Morphologic

  1. Mysterious Sylph says:
  2. Demetrios Traveller says:

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