U is for Underwater
This photo was taken by the fabulously talented Stefan Siebert, who has kindly given me permission to show it here. It is an extraordinarily beautiful creature, a tiny (about 5mm) underwater crustacean. It is a species of Sapphirina copepod – in the same family as woodlice and crabs.
They are usually invisible. Until that is, they catch the light, when they burst into visibility like a flash of prismatic wonder and as quickly disappear again.
Describing them is almost an exercise in futility – so with his permission I am linking you to a film of them on Vimeo, taken by another incredible photographer, Kaj Maney, who runs a diving school in Indonesia, so that you can watch in awe.
Like all crustaceans they have an exoskeleton, but theirs is transparent and has crystalline elements – when the light strikes them at the right angle, the exoskeleton acts like prism and it appears in a blaze of glory.
There are many types of tiny crustacean, with other tiny animals and fish, eggs etc. drifting in the currents, they help form the zooplankton that sustains many creatures, big and small; seahorses, jellyfish, even some types of whale.
These particular crustaceans, copepods, are tiny creatures which aren’t usually very attractive, each sporting one eye, long antennae and segmented bodies (rather like woodlice).
The sapphirina copepods are a stunningly beautiful exception.
The gemstone sapphire can be found in many colours and so can copepods, golds, greens and purples as well as blue.
Sometimes they come to the surface and shimmer in the light – Japanese fishermen called this phenomenon ‘Tamamizu’ which means jewelled water, or water bead.
Unless you are a diver, you will probably never see one!
My copepod poem:
They make up
these sea sapphires
catch the light,
part it in their
to blaze alive
in the under-
Poem © Liz Brownlee
Photo © Dr Stefan Siebert (Please note there is no creative commons license for this image, I have permission to show it.)
Film © Kaj Maney (Please note there is no creative commons license to show this film, I have permission to show it.)
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