This first-ever 3D reconstruction of a giant larvacean (the blue tadpole-like animal in the center) reveals the complex structure of its inner filter. It was made in collaboration between MBARI and the Digital Life Project at the University of Massachusetts. © 2020 MBARI

Many animals build complex structures for protection or to capture food, but very few are built exclusively from materials that the animals themselves produce. In the twilight zone, structures made of mucus are quite common and serve many vital functions, but little is known about them because of their fragility and transparency. Now, our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute (MBARI) and their colleagues have devised a new way to non-invasively image these structures, including the fragile “houses” of giant larvaceans, which can grow to as much as one meter (3 feet) in diameter and are one of the most complex and fascinating objects found in the twilight zone. Read more at MBARI or Read the paper.