See a giant siphonophore, a bizarre ocean creature that looks like silly string

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The outer ring alone of this siphonophore is estimated at 154 feet (47 meters) in length.


Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

While most of the world is hunkered down at home, scientists on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor are isolated on the ocean during an expedition to study the Ningaloo Canyons off the western coast of Australia. 

They found something flabbergasting in the deep sea: a crazy-long ocean creature called a siphonophore. Schmidt Ocean tweeted a video of what looks like a huge line of silly string sprayed in a spiral pattern in the water.

“It seems likely that this specimen is the largest ever recorded, and in strange UFO-like feeding posture,” the institute wrote. Schmidt Ocean estimated the siphonophore’s outer ring at 49 feet (15 meters) in diameter.  

While the siphonophore, which is related to jellyfish, looks like it’s all one animal, it’s actually a collection of parts. 

“It’s made of millions of interconnected clones, like if the Borg and the Clone Wars had a baby together. There are about a dozen different jobs a clone can do in the colony, and each clone is specialized to a particular task,” explained Rebecca Helm, a University of North Carolina, Asheville, marine biologist who started a Twitter thread to add context to the video.

Helm said she has been on numerous expeditions, but has never seen anything like this. Helm’s entire thread is a marvel and worth a read if you want to dive deeper into what makes these ocean animals so amazing.

From giant gelatinous squid egg balls to this siphonophore that seems to stretch on forever, we’re still discovering wild and wonderful new sights in the deep.

The outer ring alone of this siphonophore is estimated at 154 feet (47 meters) in length.


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