SCIENCE IN PICS: Sailor’s Eyeballs

Epoch Times Staff
Created: August 22, 2011 Last Updated: August 22, 2011
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Sailor's eyeball at Gili Trawangan in Lombok, Indonesia. (Matthew Oldfield)

Sailor's eyeball at Gili Trawangan in Lombok, Indonesia. (Matthew Oldfield)

Sailor’s eyeballs are giant single-celled algae found in the Indo-Pacific down to 20 meters depth. They have other common names, such as bubble algae and sea pearl algae.

These algae look rather like huge marbles, reaching up to 5 centimeters in diameter, and grow on coral and rocky reefs, attaching to the substrate by hair-like filaments called rhizoids.

Young plants are translucent with a bluish sheen, while older ones become encrusted, for example by coralline red seaweeds. The one in this photo has been partially overgrown by an encrusting ascidian or sea squirt.

Sailor’s eyeballs undergo an interesting process of vegetative or asexual reproduction. Daughter cells grow inside the parent, which dies and breaks down, releasing the new plants.

Matthew Oldfield is a freelance photographer based in Bali, Indonesia, specializing in editorial and documentary images from both above and below the waves. He works primarily with charities, NGO’s, and other organizations working to conserve the environment, endangered species, and disappearing cultures.

Matthew is on Twitter @matthewophoto. More of his photos can be found at

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