Smithsonian Features Luminous Critters Living in the Deep, Dark Gulf


A close up profile of an adult anglerfish female from the Linophryne family collected in the northern Gulf of Mexico. © 2016 DEEPEND/ Dante Fenolio

Scientists are finding fascinating discoveries in the largely unknown deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Some fishes, invertebrates, and bacteria have evolved a special adaptation to living in dark conditions using bioluminescence. What’s new is the discovery of specific bacteria species that live symbiotically on anglerfish and emit light.

The Smithsonian recently published an article about these anglerfish and bacteria based on research funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). Scientists with the DEEPEND consortium comb through mountains of marine samples and microbial DNA sequence data to help us better understand risks when events like the Deepwater Horizon strike.

Read the article Meet the Tiny Bacteria That Give Anglerfishes Their Spooky Glow to find out how fish who don’t produce their own light pair up with bacterium that do.


GoMRI and the Smithsonian have a partnership to enhance oil spill science content on the Ocean Portal website.

This research was made possible in part by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to the Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico (DEEPEND) consortium. The GoMRI is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies.  An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research.  All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available.  The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP.  For more information, visit