Aliens from the Depths

A gallery of stunning photographs of marine invertebrates. The portraits reveal a kinship, mystery, and dignity.

A gallery of stunning photographs of marine invertebrates. The portraits reveal a kinship, mystery, and dignity.

We are terrestrials. But if we look back far enough we find that we came from the sea. The vast majority of marine creatures are invertebrates—animals without spines—which make up more than 98 percent of all animal life on this planet. It’s been a labor of love and constant discovery to photograph so many of nature’s exquisite spineless creations: colorful, quirky, quivery, spindly, sticky, stretchy, squishy, slithery, squirmy, prickly, bubbly, and fluttery. One outcome of this work is my book Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life (Abrams 2014). But there’s trouble at sea; climate change has warmed ocean waters, and carbon dioxide emissions are causing ocean acidification—dangerous and deadly for marine invertebrates. I find these creatures’ very strangeness compelling; I hope my photographs speak to that, but also to a sense of kinship, dignity, and mystery we share as living beings.

MARINE INVERTEBRATE PHOTOS

  • Tiger Cowry
  • Graceful Sapsucker Slug
  • Graceful Kelp Crab
  • Bloodworm
  • Stubby Squid
  • Lemon Drop Slug
  • Creeping Pedal Sea Cucumber
post-image Bloody Hermit. Dardanus sanguinocarpus. View full image. Photo by Susan Middleton ’70
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