National Geographic : 1971 Jul
ANSCOCHROME BY FRANKH. JOHNSON Radiant "sea fireflies" spill from three thimbles. Tiny crustaceans the size of tomato seeds, Cypridina hilgendorfii teem in sandy shallows off Japan, secreting a luminous fluid which they discharge when disturbed. Clustered around a pair of darning needles (below right), dried Cypridina wear transparent shells. They fluoresce in the ultraviolet light used to make this photograph. Another phase of my bioluminescence field work took me to Japan. There Dr. Yata Haneda, a noted specialist on the subject and Director of the Yokosuka City Museum, ac companied me on a field trip in search of Cypridina, a crustacean of the order Ostra coda, about the size of a tomato seed, with tiny swimming legs at one end. It lives in the sand of shallow seas along many parts of the Japanese coast. One moonless night Dr. Haneda and I, in the company of a rather ancient fisher woman, plodded to the end of a creaky old pier at Tateyama, about 50 miles south of Tokyo. The woman carried two buckets, one empty, the other full of smelly fish heads. In the light of our flashlights, she looped twine around one of the heads, then tossed it off the pier where the water was about fifteen feet deep. She kept up a running conversation with Dr. Haneda, who translated for me. The fish head now lay on the bottom, we were assured, and the smell, so delicious, would surely tempt the little fellows. Out of the sand they would squirm, moved by only one impulse-to gorge on the fleshy source of that divine scent. The old woman continued to talk for BLACKANDWHITEBY JAMESL. STANFIELD(ABOVE);KODACHROME BYPAULA. LAHL LJ n..~. Moisten dried Cypridina, then gently rub them in your hand, and they glow as if once again alive. During World War II, the Japanese harvested these creatures by the gallon for soldiers to use when 64 reading maps and messages at night. Here a hand smeared with Cypridina and cupped over a National Geographic map lights Iwo Jima, one of the Pacific war's bloodiest battlegrounds.