marine biology image database


Cifonauta is an image database for marine organisms organized by descriptive information such as taxonomic classification, life stage and geolocation (complete list). Images were created during research projects and teaching activities of marine biology by students and faculty.

Photographic documentation is common in scientific studies, but only a small part of photos and videos created are used in teaching activities, published in specialized journals or printed in publicity materials. Thousands of images with a huge potential for scientific outreach are never made public. Cifonauta was conceived to make all this material public and useful to anyone.

Students, teachers, biologists, oceanographers, artists, and curious minds in general will find images from different marine organisms and environments. Creatures usually photographed live, from rare to abundant, but sometimes not famous. Commonly known living beings like fishes and sea stars, up to the strangest forms. Content can be browsed with tags, taxonomic tree or through our search interface where results can be refined interactively.

This image database is a way to share scientific information using images and to show the beauty and diversity of marine life. We hope it can be used as a platform for scientific outreach and become a useful source for those interested in the beings living in the oceans and seas.

Cifonauta is based on the collaboration of researchers and students and is financially supported by CNPq - National Council for Scientific and Technological Development.


Cifonauta database has sequential photos of organisms with varying poses, focus or exposure, which allows a more complete visualization and 3D information. Most images were just resized for web display; only a few were cropped or adjusted in imaging software.

Besides photographs and videos of living organisms, the database has images created with special techniques. For example, Transmission Electron Microscopy which allows the visualization of internal structures, tissues, and cells or the Scanning Electron Microscopy that allows the visualization of organisms' external topography with detailed images and wide depth of field.


  • Search – Find images using query terms and refine the results with tags.
  • Photos or Videos – Open, order and refine database imagery content.
  • Tours – Selection of representative images from an specific theme.
  • Taxonomic tree – Browse and open images from specific taxa.
  • Tags – See all metadata information stored in image files.
  • Places – Browse and open images from a specific place or geolocation.
  • Authors – Browse by authors or experts.
  • References – Complete list of bibliographic references with shortcut to related images.


Currently, most images were created in the laboratory using light microscopy. In this type of photography the optical equipment (compound and stereo scopes) and the microscopy techniques are more important than the camera itself, commonly a simple compact model (e.g., Nikon Coolpix 4500 and Coolpix P5000). The optical quality of microscopy equipment (compound microscope Zeiss Axioplan 2 and stereomicroscope Zeiss SV-11) employed were crucial to obtain good photos and videos.

Colaborate with us (near future)

The initial idea for the Cifonauta database was to make available images created during research activities by faculty and students working at CEBIMar USP, establishing the basic site content. However, in the future the site will be open to external collaborators, aiming to improve the representativeness of the image content.

At the moment we do not have resources to process more material, but if you are interested in contributing please send a message to with the group of organisms you work with and/or type of images you want to submit (organisms, habitats, illustrations, underwater videos etc). We will add you to the future collaborators list and will contact you when things start to roll out.

Credits and support


Alvaro E. Migotto & Bruno C. Vellutini


CNPq - National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Call MCT / CNPq No. 42/2007 (process # 551951/2008-7).


To CEBIMar / USP, particularly for providing infrastructure, equipment and support staff, and also for the exceptionally good conditions for maintenance and observation of living marine organisms in the laboratory and field, which have been decisive for the formation of this bank of images. We are especially grateful to the laboratory technicians Eduardo Honuma, Elso Alves da Silva, Joseilto Medeiros de Oliveira, and Joseph Marie Etienne Van Sebroeck for the countless sampling of organisms and laboratory assistance. The systems analyst Allan Rodrigo de Lima is in charge of the installation and configuration o the database server.

We thank all those who provided images and specimens, identified organisms, assisted in assembling the preparations, and helped with ideas and suggestions.