Wednesday, May 5, 2010

David Gallo shows underwater astonishments

By Luke D.

For centuries, humans have imagined the possibility of finding alien life on other planets. However, they often fail to consider the almost extraterrestrial world that exists right here on Earth - our oceans. They are more mysterious and alien to humans than the surface of the moon.

Awe-inspiring bioluminescence and bizarre creatures fill the deep-sea in an environment that’s equal to the tropical rainforest in both diversity and wonder. The deepest regions of the oceans are dangerous to visit and require expensive, complicated equipment. This is unfortunate because they contain some of the most brilliant sights.

David Gallo is one man who has had the privilege and luck to behold this breathtaking beauty.

In his Ted Talk, David Gallo tells us of the wonders of this untouched world. In the dark, pitch-black environments of the deep sea, he tells us of bioluminescent beauty that blooms in an otherwise, completely dark world. A special camera has been developed to capture footage of these alien-looking animals and the fruits of its burden are fantastical.

Such organisms down in this watery underworld include a bright red jellyfish with a glowing circle of brilliant lava colored flesh underneath its tentacles, a long serpentine fish with pulsing, glowing eyes that make it look like a Mike Mignola drawing; a red torpedo shaped creature that is described by Gallo as a “flying turkey”, and numerous clouds of swarming, living lights that leave us guessing at what may be producing them.

Gallo explains that while scientists once assumed there was no life in these unexplored places, its now speculated that there is more diversity beyond the sunlight’s reach then anywhere on the surface world. He also informs us that although humans have only explored about three per cent of the Earth’s oceans, they have discovered the world’s highest mountains, deepest valleys and untold amounts of newly discovered species in this fraction. David Gallo has skillfully shown the audience that while we may think we know a great deal about our planet, it turns out the world still has countless unexplored wonders. Our eyes are just opening. What a wonderful universe we inhabit! To think, our species has existed for roughly 200,000 years, and the Earth still has untold surprises for us to enjoy.

But luckily David Gallo doesn’t just focus on the eternal nights of the deep oceans. The second half of his Ted Talk displays amazing footage of a fascinating group of animals known as the Cephalopods. This family includes octopuses, squids and cuttlefish and this video makes them appear as out of this world as any extraterrestrial from science-fiction.

Cephalopods are widely renowned in the world of zoology for their intelligence and their well developed eyes (both are the most evolved of all invertebrates). The presentation however displays their amazing ability to change colour.

First, we see a pair of squid performing a mating ritual. The male squid is shown strategically changing color on only half of his body. This may seem like a strange thing for an animal to do. However, as Gallo explains, when it comes to courtship and reproduction, this species of squid has two main colours - an inviting reddish brown to impress females, and pure white to intimidate other males. The male squid moves around constantly to make sure the female only sees the comforting red on him while the other half of his body is white to keep any other males from interfering. He’s kept on his toes by the fact that the female is moving too, resulting in a very fun display of natural colour change. Of course, if done by humans this would be considered obsessive and deceitful. But when squids do it, it’s just plain cool!

Next we are shown a Cuttlefish, the most interesting looking of the Cephalopods. This creature is shown displaying the Cephalopods remarkable ability to mimic the textures and shades of undersea flora such as algae. As the cuttlefish backs into an algae covered crevice, its erect, smooth and fleshy tentacles morph into crinkled algae leaves. The perfect camouflage. Another clip of cuttlefish shows two males fighting a non-physical battle of territorial dispute. Instead of physical contact, they battle with a display of colours. The patterns they display are truly amazing as they move across their skin in an almost psychedelic manner. It would not be out of place in a piece of animation from the 1970s.

But Gallo saves the best clip for last. In the final part of the video, the camera zooms in on a rock covered in exotic underwater plants. Pretty, but leaves one wondering “So what?” Oh, we find out. As the camera tilts up to the swaying plants, a few of them suddenly morph together, become smooth and turn a muddy cream colour. And then, where a bulge of algae was, a white octopus is angelically spreading its tentacles. You would almost literally miss the transformation if you blinked. It goes unbelievably smooth and fast. And better yet, Gallo plays it backwards! It’s incredible to see how this creature gets everything right. The texture, the brightness, the pattern and the color. This is easily one of the coolest videos I’ve ever seen.

I highly recommended this video to everyone! The graphics and content are so brilliant, awe-inspiring and beautiful; I was almost disappointed that the Ted Talk wasn’t longer!

Anyone who appreciates wonder, beauty and breathtaking sights should watch this. The video clearly illustrates that, considering that hundreds if not thousands of planets out there are just balls of barren lifeless rock, we have a pretty crazy-awesome world down here!

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