Snapchat's New Coral Lenses Transport You Under the Sea

Illustration for article titled Snapchat's New Coral Lenses Transport You Under the Sea
Photo: AP

Snapchat lenses might be considered “fun”—the collection of augmented reality animations you can add to your real-world snap includes a llama falling over and a head-banging cockatoo—but rarely do we think of them as educational. A team of animators is now trying to change that with a new set of lenses that raise awareness about the colorful world of coral.


On Tuesday, animation experts at the California Academy of Sciences came out with a crop of five coral reef-themed Snapchat lenses. The lenses are the result of animators and scientists working together to craft scientifically-accurate animated creatures.

Snapchat users can now come screen-to-face with corals and coral-dwelling animals from across the globe. Creatures like the blob-like nudibranch, which slinks along the floors of the Pacific Ocean, or the reef-building Elkhorn coral which calls the Caribbean its home, can now be plopped on your desk in the blink of an eye.

Copepods and a coral polyp.
Gif: Paola A. Rosa-Aquino

“We tried to create lenses that would illustrate the complex relationships that occur on a reef,” said Ken Ackerman, one of the animators who developed the lenses, in a press release.

A quarter of all ocean fish rely on healthy corals for for food and shelter, according to NOAA. Sea creatures flock to these “rainforests of the sea,” making them the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. Bringing the complexity and diversity of these ecosystems to our neck of the woods is not just an educational endeavor, though—it’s a surprisingly entertaining one.

After scanning the Snapcodes on CAS’s website, a roledex of vibrant sea creatures were at my disposal. A glimpse through my phone screen revealed the Gizmodo Media offices to be teeming with sea life. Standing next to my desk, I’m pretty sure I saw a nudibranch giving me some sass.

Sassy nudibranch.
Gif: Paola A. Rosa-Aquino

It’s an important time to be raising awareness of coral reefs, given that many of these ecosystems are in a state of peril thanks to ocean acidification, water pollution, and coral bleaching events prompted by rising ocean temperatures. The vital role corals play in supporting marine biodiversity (and protecting our coastlines) underscore the importance of ramping up conservation efforts on all fronts. The youngs are on Snapchat, so why not start there?


I was born a while ago and now I'm here. Pretty rad.