The John B. Pierce Laboratory

Colors of the covert world of the deep

By Madhuvanthi Kannan

Inhabiting the darkest realms of ocean waters near the Gulf of Mexico, animals such as the catshark use body fluorescence as a privy code to find and be found by their peers…and even perhaps, evade potential predators. Their skin proteins absorb the stray rays of sunlight to emit a brilliant green color. While other animals can be oblivious of its presence, only the catshark, with a yellow filter in its eye, can perceive the neon hue on its mates.

Scientists including Dr. Vincent Pieribone dive into oceanic depths to feast on the spectacular color of numerous fluorescent creatures. The play of light is not just a treat to their eyes, but holds promise to their everlasting endeavor of unraveling the mysteries of the human brain. By tagging cells and tissues with fluorescent proteins, they are on the brink of gaining unprecedented access to the inner workings of life.