Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Weird Alien Looking Animal Is Actually a Living Colony

A few months ago, a team from the Nautilus Live expedition piloting a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) came across and took footage of a weird, elongated, dagger-shaped creature. The strange animal you are about to see is a species of Siphonophore. Although it appears to be a single organism, it's actually composed of thousands of individual organisms called zooids.

The species shown in the video is most probably Erenna richardi:

As you probably noticed on the video, even the experienced deep sea explorers got really excited with their unusual and rare find.

"Wow. Okay, that’s awesome. I can’t believe that’s a living thing." says one ROV operator.

What makes this purple critter even more interesting is its unique color. According to Rebecca Helm from Deep Sea News, deep sea siphonophores typically come in red or orange colors. 

"What’s amazing to me about about this animal is not just its strange shape, but its color. I’ve seen red siphonophores like this, a couple orange, but never ever this strange purple-blue.", she wrote.

On an update, Dr. Steven Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute told Deep Sea News that many species of the same genus (Erenna) may get their dark color from the fish they eat.

Weird animal siphonophore is actually a living colony

A few words about Siphonophore
Siphonophores (or Siphonophora) belong to the phylum Cnidaria, a group of animals that includes corals, hydroids, and jellyfish. As of today, there are more than 150 described species of Siphonophores.

The majority of them are long and thin, consisting mostly of a clear gelatinous material. As aforementioned, deep water species are dark orange or red and sometimes their digestive system is visible through their transparent tissues. Many are bioluminescent, glowing green or blue when disturbed.

Some siphonophores reach remarkable lengths, putting them in the list of world's longest animals. For example, Praya dubia, or the Giant Siphonophore, can be 40 m (~130 ft) long and holds the record for second largest sea organism.

The best known siphonophore is probably the dangerous Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis)

Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis) Siphonophore
Portuguese man o' war

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