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The Private Life of Plankton — in HD

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Artistic black-and-white photos of plankton — as we saw last time — are fabulous. But what if one hungers for HD? The Plankton Chronicles have got you covered.

On Friday I wrote about the Plankton Portal, a project to enlist the public’s help in identifying and cataloguing weird, deep-sea life. Via their blog, I learned about a French project called Plankton Chronicles, which produces short 2-5 minute films of plankton. Each one is a petit four of biological delight, giving tantalizing glimpses into a world rarely depicted in American nature documentaries. Even better, it’s all artfully done in vivid HD with high-quality sound effects and narration. No grainy youtube videos with dubious soundtracks here!

Here is a film that gives a nice overview of both plankton and the French marine biology station — the Observatoire Oceanologique de Villefranche-sur-Mer — that oversees this project. This video contains the best footage of firing nematocysts (contained in cells called cnidocytes) — the stinging harpoons that jellyfish deploy to inflict their fiery pain — that I’ve ever seen.

Used with permission.

And here is a second, to further whet your appetite. Watch for the undulating flagella. In one case, you can watch one unfurl as the dinoflagellate Ceratium fires up its motors.

Ceratium ENG from Parafilms on Vimeo.

Used with permission.

Project leader Christian Sardet — who is also the Research Director at Villefranche-sur-Mer says the effort is an offshoot of the Tara Expedition, named for a French science ship which travels the world studying climate change and its effects on our oceans. He told me by email that he and his friends Eric Karsenti and Gaby Gorsky  conceived of the project four years ago as a science and art offshoot of Tara. They will soon publish a book in French on the subject, he said: “Plancton: Aux Origines du Vivant.”

The films are now produced in association with Parafilms of Montreal. So far, there are about 20 films and more are to come. Can’t wait!

Jennifer Frazer About the Author: Jennifer Frazer is a AAAS Science Journalism Award-winning science writer. She has degrees in biology, plant pathology/mycology, and science writing, and has spent many happy hours studying life in situ.
Nature Blog Network
Follow on Twitter @JenniferFrazer.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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