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article imageBeautiful purple orb found on sea floor stumps scientists

By Karen Graham     Jul 30, 2016 in Science
"Have a look at that dark purple blob on the left, there."
With these words, scientists aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus may have begun a new chapter in the discovery of unknown species while exploring the ocean's floor off the coast of California.
The small, purple orb was found tucked under an overhanging rock ledge off the coast of California during the crew's exploration of the Arguello Canyon, west of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary on July 18.
Looking like a brilliant purple disco ball, it stands out against the dark gray drabness of its marine environment. On the YouTube video released by Nautilus Live, the crew can be heard discussing the strange creature. No one had a clue as to what it was, although there were some good guesses.
It is felt that the little creature may be a gastropod (a mollusk such as a snail or slug that belongs to the class Gastropoda) called a pleurobranch, and if so, even more important for the nautilus Live Project, they may have found a new species. "None of the known species of California pleurobranch are purple," said Susan Poulton, a spokeswoman for the E/V Nautilus expeditions, according to LiveScience.
An oddball little creature
You can watch the undersea drama unfold as the crew manipulates Hercules, their ROV (remote operated vehicle), trying to measure and collect the little creature with a hose as a curious crab looks on. The ball is only about two inches in diameter, and sort of looks like an egg sac or some kind of animal, perhaps a type of cnidarian (jellies.)
After getting the purple orb on board the research vessel, further examination revealed the orb unfolded into two lobes. There were no tendrils, like a jellyfish might have. it was sent to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology for analysis. They also took samples for RNA analysis and plan to conduct a DNA analysis as well.
The Nautilus Live project gets the public involved by using a standard definition version of the liv...
The Nautilus Live project gets the public involved by using a standard definition version of the live video from the ISC that is then transmitted via standard Internet so that scientists, students and the general public can participate in the investigation of the unexplored deep ocean simultaneously with Nautilus-based teams
Nautilus Live
E/V Nautilus Live
The Exploration Vessel Nautilus is operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, a nonprofit organization that was founded by oceanographer Robert Ballard. The vessel is equipped with some of the latest technological systems, including remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), high-resolution seafloor mapping, and real-time satellite transmission of data.
The research team broadcasts their activities live at http://www.nautiluslive.org/ and issues dive alerts on Twitter.
More about purple orb, Disco ball, Nautilus, pleurobranch, New species
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