Amazing images of sea butterflies

A sea butterfly (Clione limacina.) ©Karen Osborn/Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian Collage of Arts and Sciences blog has published a photographic study of sea butterflies or pteropods by zoologist Karen Osborne. She and her fellow researchers are capturing the animals by hand while on scuba in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico and California and then bringing them back to the research ship and photographing them in a shallow tank of clear water with a Canon 5D camera with a 65mm lens, using multiple flashguns to capture their colors. This is taking place alongside genetic analysis of the specimens to ensure taxonomic accuracy.

A shelled sea butterfly (Hyalocylis striata ) ©Karen Osborn/Smithsonian.

Traditional capture methods have involved the use of a net, which makes the butterflies retract their “wings”, and then the way the specimens have been preserved is also thought to affect their appearance. It has believed that this has resulted to mis-identification and classification. Hand gathering specimens is, the researcher feel, more likely to give accurate representations of the animals, as well as to “capture never-before-recorded images of the living animals—and to inspire interest in these weird, wild animals.” All images ©Karen Osborn/Smithsonian.

A sea butterfly (Pneumodermopsis sp.) ©Karen Osborn/Smithsonian.