Needle-nosed babies are Porcelain Crabs. Male Argonaut (left is nearly fully grown; female (upper right) grows long arms. Squirrelfish,Mantis Shrimps, Sponge Crab, and Flatfish plankton are greatly magnified.
Sometimes I have spent 5 minutes examining a dish of live plankton before noticing an inch-long lobster baby that was swimming right under my nose. Even then it was revealed only as a pair of dark eyes, apparently swimming around all by themselves. I had been looking right through the body without noticing it.
This transparency may make things difficult for us, but it gives un an x-ray-like ability to watch such processes as the beating of a heart. On the other hand, it must be a great advantage to a baby lobster which is being hunted by a fish to wear a cloak of invisibility that prevents the fish from seeing its prospective meal.
We tried painting these transparent babies on white paper, and they looked beautiful but unnatural. We tried again with a black background, which came closer to the natural conditions in which they live. This was better, but they looked much too solid and harsh.
At this stage, Nature stepped in to justify an old adage by sending a very ill wind--in fact, a hurricane--to Miami. This was too much for the roof of my laboratory, and the next thing we knew there was a torrent of water pouring out under the door and down the stairs.
Sadly, trying to dry out wet papers next day, we came on one of Craig Phillips's sketches. Somehow the rain water had washed out the black background to just the right shade of blue and softened the outlines of the painting until we had exactly the effect we had been seeking. The reader can judge how well the artist has profited from this heaven-sent tip.
magazine illustrationnational geographicplanktonscientific illustrationcrabssea life