Close-Up View of Microscopic Marine Life

Written by on November 12, 2014 in Invertebrates, Marine Life
Adult sea start. Photo credit: Jerry Kirkhart, CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Adult sea start. Photo credit: Jerry Kirkhart, CC-BY-SA-3.0.

In their first few weeks of life, sea stars, barnacles, and sand dollars look nothing like the adults that we can all picture. Check out the following fantastic video to see just how small (and strange-looking) these marine invertebrates are.

Created by David and Andrea Brugman, “Children of the Tide” gives us an up-close view of the development of common marine invertebrates during the first few weeks of their lives. David Brugman spent 10 years working in video production with a focus on sustainability and the environment. He currently works in Germany as a freelance sustainability consultant. Andrea Brugman has been a hobby photographer for years and currently works in German as a translator at the University of Regensburg.

“We wanted to make a science film that was both practical (for educational purposes) and inspirational and aesthetically pleasing (to show the beauty of this “hidden” marine life on earth),” David told MST.

To make this video, a few drops of seawater were filmed under a microscope in cooperation with Friday Harbor Laboratory at the University of Washington (UW).

A few drops might not seem like a lot, but David told us that “Within a drop of water near the sea shore (in tide pools, etc.) you are likely to find some form of planktonic life.”

Although the density will vary by location, “you most likely would always find some type of microscopic life in every drop of seawater near the shore and/or near the surface of the ocean where plankton thrive,” he said.

Screenshot of nine-day old sea star from Children of the Tide.

Screenshot of nine-day old sea star from Children of the Tide.

With the help of UW researchers at Friday Harbor Labs, David and Andrea were able to film each stage of development of sea urchins, sea snails, barnacles, chitons, sea stars, and sand dollars. The whole lifespan of these marine invertebrates, from embryonic through larval state to the adult stage is usually only two to three weeks.

“The microscopic footage will filmed for each of these animals during their embryo and larval development stages…to give the viewer an idea of how small these animals are at this stage in their lives,” David explained.

The finished product (a 24-minute version which included planktonic plant life) was distributed to several hundred schools and marine science centers to be used as a teaching-tool. “The video also included an accompanying guide that provided additional information about what is seen in the video,” he noted. “The music is performed by a friend of ours who makes his own musical instruments.”

Take a look:

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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