By John Squires
Deep Sea News‘ Rebecca Helm calls this little guy “the most beautiful animal you’ve never seen,” a description that mostly definitely suits the Sapphirina copepod that she likes to call a ‘sea sapphire.’ Glowing and stunningly beautiful one second, the unique sea-dweller is completely invisible the next, thanks to a complex system of crystal layers.
As we spotted over on io9, these so-called sea sapphires have closely spaced microscopic layers inside their cells, which allow for their highly unusual flickering capabilities. “When blue light bounces off these crystal layers,” Helm says, “it is perfectly preserved and reflected. But for other colors of light, these small differences in distance interfere, causing the colors to cancel out. So while white light is composed of all colors, only blue light is reflected back. Combine this nifty trick with the sea sapphire’s impressively transparent body, and you have an animal as radiant as a star in one moment, and invisible in the next.”
Helm herself encountered her first sea sapphire in Africa, and has since spotted them off the coasts of Rhode Island and California. She says that different species shine in different hues, and the sparkling effect is …read more