marine biology image database

Database organization

Cifonauta photos and videos can be searched by basic information (metadata), such as species, place, author, size, etc. These tags organized by categories like photographic technique, life stage, habitat, etc, provides a more informative and interesting navigation. For example, you might want to look for dark-field crustacean larvae photos, or just browse through the adult forms of planktonik organisms. Image categorization and a description for each tag (with a random example) is below.


The taxonomic information in this site does not adopt any particular classification scheme and is built automatically from ITIS database. From the taxon name (contained in the image) we can retrieve its full taxonomic hierarchy and generate a simple tree for browsing. Therefore, the classification might not be in accordance with latest findings of each area; it reflects, almost strictly, the data from ITIS. Only in some cases we employ the phylogeny proposed by the author (or expert) that identified the species.


We arbitrarily created 5 classes of sizes to provide an idea of organisms' dimensions. Benthic fauna received additional size information: macrofauna, meiofauna e microfauna (see item Life mode, below). Landscape/habitat photos do not hold size information, but if they are showing an specific organism (barnacles on rocky shore, for example) a size class is provided. Size classes are:

Size Description Example
0.1 - 1.0 mm Embryos, larvae and planktonic creatures.
Polychaete dorvinelid +
Polychaete dorvinelid
<0.1 mm Unicellular organisms and details of multicellular organisms.
Tintinnid with agglutinated lorica +
Tintinnid with agglutinated lorica
>100 mm Even larger organisms.
10 - 100 mm Macroscopic organisms.
Fire worm +
Fire worm
The fire-worms are benthic animals that live under rocks and among other marine organisms; they have white, numerous, and large bristles that may cause skin irritation.
1.0 - 10 mm Tiny creatures but visible at the naked eye.
Cubozoan +
Male medusa - oral view.

Photographic techniques

Different techniques used to capture the dataase images were divided in 4 categories.: submarine, macrophotography, landscape/seascape e microscopy. To embrace the variety of microscopy techiniques the latter was subdivided. This is the list of tags related to photographic techniques:

Technique Description Example
diving Photographs taken under water.
Piaba-do-mar +
A specimen of Pempheris schomburgkii inside a hole during the day.
landscape Depicts an environment.
Alcatrazes archipelago +
Alcatrazes archipelago
macrophotography Detail shot with a hand-held digital camera, usually of an organism in aquarium.
mev Scanning electron microscopy.
Tintinnid with agglutinated lorica +
Tintinnid with agglutinated lorica
bright field transmitted light illumination in which the sample appears dark in a bright background
confocal Confocal microscopy.
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit +
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit
dark field transmitted illumination in which the light beam scatters as it hits the specimen, so it appears bright against a dark background
Benthic comb jelly (ctenophore) +
Benthic comb jelly (ctenophore)
Differential interference contrast Microscopy technique used to enhance contrast in unstained, transparent samples (DIC).
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit +
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit
Detail of the gut.
polarized light Polarized light microscopy reveals birefringent structures.
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit +
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit
protargol impregnation Silver impregnation technique.
Tintinnid with agglutinated lorica +
Tintinnid with agglutinated lorica

Life stage

The organisms photographed are not always adults.

Stage Description Example
adult Sexually mature organism.
embryo Organism in its early stages of development.
Embryo with 16 cells +
Embryo with 16 cells
gamete A mature sexual reproductive cell (sperm or egg)
Sea urchin +
Sea urchin
juvenile Sexually immature organism that resembles an adult.
Juvenile sea biscuit +
Juvenile sea biscuit
Anus on the juvenile aboral surface (red curved structure).
larva Post-embryonic stage that usually differs from the adult stage in morphology, behavior, habitat, and others. Does not reproduce sexually.
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit +
Pluteus larva of a sea biscuit
metamorphosis Change in shape and/or body structure that occurs between the larval and juvenile or adult.
A sea biscuit's life 03:36 +
A sea biscuit's life
O vídeo retrata o ciclo de vida da bolacha-do-mar Clypeaster subdepressus e faz parte do meu projeto de mestrado pelo Instituto de Biociências da Universidade de São Paulo. Coletamos os adultos em fundos arenosos do Canal de São Sebastião (São Sebastião, SP, Brasil) e os induzimos a liberarem seus gametas (óvulos e espermatozóides). Fizemos a fecundação in vitro e acompanhamos o desenvolvimento dos embriões no laboratório, sob microscopia de luz. Os embriões tornam-se larvas natantes, com cerca de 0 2 mm, que alimentamos com microalgas até sua metamorfose. A pequena bolacha-do-mar cresce dentro da larva. Quando os minúsculos pés e espinhos estão formados a larva afunda e sofre a metamorfose. O filhote de bolacha-do-mar reabsorve os tecidos larvais e passa a explorar seu novo habitat, entre os grãos de areia. Fizemos todas as filmagens no Centro de Biologia Marinha da Universidade de São Paulo (CEBIMar-USP), localizado em São Sebastião, SP, Brasil, litoral norte do estado de São Paulo ( Mais informações sobre este projeto podem ser encontradas no site ( Baixe a trilha sonora no site da netlabel AEROTONE ( Este vídeo está sob uma licença Creative Commons by-nc-sa (
neriliidae polychaete +
neriliidae polychaete
Polychaete dorvinelid +
Polychaete dorvinelid


We also indicate the habitat of each organism whenever possible.

Habitat Description Example
artificial substrate
baixio não vegetado
banco não vegetado
hard bottom
infralittoral Coastal region permanently submerged.
Sipunculid +
Distal introvert showing tentacles.
intertidal Coastal region only exposed at low tide.
Kinorhynch +
mangrove Transition zone between land and sea, dominated by a typical vegetation that grows in areas that are frequently inundated with salt and fresh water.
Egret bird +
Egret bird
rocky-shore Transition between marine and terrestrial environments formed by rocks.
Black sea urchin +
Black sea urchin
Detail of oral region.
sand beach Landform along the shoreline consisting sand, gravel, or pebbles.
soft bottom


Tags that do not fit into other categories. Could be common terms frequently searched.

Others Description Example
3d Image rendered in three dimensions.
3D projection of a sea biscuit pluteus larva 00:16 +
3D projection of a sea biscuit pluteus larva
Montagem de fotos de uma larva plúteos da bolacha-do-mar Clypeaster subdepressus mostrando sua tridimensionalidade.
alga Informal term for a diverse group of photosynthetic eukaryotic organisms, including unicellular (microalgae) to multicellular forms, like kelps and sargassum.
Hydroid +
Colony on a red algae.
cebimar-usp Images produced at the Center for Marine Biology of the University of São Paulo (CEBIMar/USP).
Entoprocta +
Os Entoprocta (=Kamptozoa) compreendem um filo de animais invertebrados sésseis, coloniais ou solitários, um dos grupos menos conhecidos do Reino animal e de posição filogenética obscura e controversa. Cerca de 180 espécies foram descritas mundialmente. Pequenos, transparentes e de hábitos crípticos, os entoproctos passam geralmente despercebidos, embora sejam relativamente comuns em substratos consolidados, como rochas, seixos, corais, conchas e algas, sendo comensais de muitas espécies de invertebrados, como esponjas, poliquetas, sipuncúlidos. São frequentemente encontrados dentro dos tubos e galerias de seus hospedeiros. Eles são muito parecidos com alguns briozoários e hidrozoários pelo aspecto geral e hábito. Os indivíduos são formados basicamente por uma região distal superior, denominada cálice e que possui uma coroa de tentáculos ciliados, e uma haste denominada pedúnculo, na qual o cálice é sustentado; o pedúnculo pode ser preso diretamente ao substrato através de uma estrutura dilatada, denominada pé e característico das espécies solitárias, ou através de estolões nas espécies coloniais.
cnidarian tree of life project
coral Marine invertebrates within the class Anthozoa of the phylum Cnidaria, colonial or not, which secrete a hard, calcium carbonate skeleton.
holotype The type specimen used in the original description of a species.
introduced species A species living outside its native distributional range.
invasive species Non-indigenous species, or "non-native", plants or animals that adversely affect the habitats and regions they invade.
Tubiculous polychaete +
Tubiculous polychaete
Sabellid polychaete.
jellyfish Any of various gelatinous aquatic organisms, particularly the medusa stage of cnidarians.
Cubozoan +
Adult medusa.
medusoid a reduced or vestigial medusa
Hydroid +
paratype The type specimen used in the original description of a species.
recruitment plate
risk of extinction A species that is likely to become extinct in the near future.
Peixe limpador neon +
Peixe limpador neon
Cleaning fish.
seto marine biological laboratory
Cubozoan +
Adult medusa.
symbiosis Organism living with, on, or in another, without injury to either.
Isopod crustacean associated with a soft coral +
Isopod crustacean associated with a soft coral
unicellular Organism having or consisting of a single cell.
Tintinnid with hyaline lorica +
Tintinnid with hyaline lorica