A standard scientific tool, the microscope allows analysis of very small organisms that may otherwise completely avoid detection, such as tiny plankton. Particularly small things such as microbes require powerful and expensive microscopes not usually taken to sea. Smaller, less powerful microscopes are often used on research vessels or at field stations to observe marine life, often while still alive. Living specimens that can be seen in motion or feeding under a microscope provide valuable clues to scientists about the hidden lives of many marine creatures.


The movements of animals, such as the seastar being studied here, are often easier to observe under a microscope. (Natural Geography In Shore Areas, NaGISA, Tetsuya Kato)

A scientist studies a deep-sea fish recently collected on a research cruise. (Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystems, MAR-ECO, Anette Petersen)


A close up of a deep-sea fish being studied under a microscope. (Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystems, MAR-ECO, Anette Petersen)