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Science Bulletins: Underwater Microscope Zooms in on Tiny Marine Life





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Published on Sep 25, 2012

Most plankton are too small to be seen with the naked eye. But despite their size, they are vital in marine and freshwater ecosystems, serving as food for larger animals and as oxygen producers in the ocean's carbon cycle. Microscopy has made it possible to photograph these tiny creatures in the lab, but capturing their behavior in their natural environment has been impossible—until now. Researchers in San Diego are developing the world's first underwater video microscope, capable of imaging these miniscule organisms in 3D. When plankton are swept into the submersible microscope's collection chamber, multiple cameras reveal the minute life-forms floating inside. These never-before-seen views of living plankton are a missing piece of the puzzle for scientists who study life in water. Observing activity on a microscopic scale will inform the bigger picture of interactions among creatures of all sizes in oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world.

This latest Bio Bulletin from the American Museum of Natural History's Science Bulletins program is on display in the Museum's Hall of Biodiversity until November 1, 2013.

Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History. Find out more about Science Bulletins at

Related Links

The Secret Life of Plankton

Jaffe Laboratory for Underwater Imaging

Copepod: A Global Plankton Database

Cooperative Zooplankton Database

Census of Marine Zooplankton

An Image-based Key to the Zooplankton of the Northeast

The Plankton Chronicles


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