A hard piece of coral transforms into a flexible creature, its finger-covered tendrils extended toward the ocean currents. Alien surfaces morph and flex in shimmering iridescence. Worm-like "mouths" gape and grab at anything in their proximity.
This is the world seen through the eyes of Daniel Stoupin, a Ph.D. student researching marine biology at the University of Queensland in Australia. He spent nine months working with 150,000 photos to make a video just over three minutes long.
Titled "Slow Life," the video focuses on a series of corals, sponges and other marine creatures. Their daily functions are photographed over a period of several hours, then sped up into a time-lapse sequence.
"Their speeds happen to be out of sync with our narrow perception," Stoupin explains in an essay accompanying the video. "Our brains are wired to comprehend and follow fast and dynamic events better, especially those very few that happen at speeds comparable to ours. In a world of blazingly fast predators and escaping prey events where it takes minutes, hours, or days to notice any changes are harder to grasp."
"These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives," he adds in a separate essay.
Stoupin says he hopes the painstakingly produced video will raise awareness of the devastating impact humans have had on marine life. He focuses particularly on those who remove parts of the reef for the "outrageously expensive hobby" of maintaining private aquariums. "I’m not asking to throw away your passions and hobbies, but please think carefully about what you really love, protect, and invest in," he writes. "The Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger and you have the power and finances to change its fate instead of scavenging what's left of it."
High-resolution, large-format prints from the video can be purchased on Stoupin's website.
A 27-year study of the health of the Great Barrier Reef which concluded in 2012 revealed an ecosystem in steep decline, with 50 percent of the reef having died in that time. Two of the major factors negatively impacting the reef are warming sea temperatures due to climate change, and nutrient-rich agricultural runoff, which feeds the growth of coral-eating starfish.
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