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article imageWorld's longest sea creature found off Australian coast

By Karen Graham     Apr 18, 2020 in Science
Strange and fascinating discoveries are still being made, despite a global pandemic. Scientists have captured fascinating video footage of an otherworldly organism in the waters off the coast of Western Australia that is over 150-feet-long (45 meters).
A team of researchers aboard the RV Falkor—the flagship research vessel of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) spotted the organism, a type of siphonophore known as Apolemia, using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in a deep-sea environment known as the Ningaloo Canyons in Western Australia.
"Check out this beautiful *giant* siphonophore Apolemia recorded on #NingalooCanyons expedition. It seems likely that this specimen is the largest ever recorded, and in strange UFO-like feeding posture," SOI wrote in a Twitter post.
Closely related to corals and anemones, Siphonophorae is an order of Hydrozoans, a class of marine organisms belonging to the phylum Cnidaria. Although a siphonophore may look like one organism, each specimen is actually a colonial organism composed of medusoid and polypoid zooids that are morphologically and functionally specialized.
A zooid is a multicellular unit that develops from a single fertilized egg and combines to create functional colonies able to reproduce, digest, float, maintains body positioning, and use jet propulsion to move. How cool is that?
Siphonophores are predatory carnivores. They feed on a variety of copepods, small crustaceans, and even small fish. They also have tentacles attached to the base of the zooid that is capable of shooting a paralyzing, and sometimes fatal dose of toxins at the trapped prey.
This particular siphonophore could actually be must longer than the estimated 45 meters, a spokesperson for the Schmidt Ocean Institute says, according to CBC Canada.
"There's a lot of conjecture about how long it really is," Nerida Wilson, the manager of the Molecular Systematics Unit at Western Australian Museum, told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay. "We're in the process of trying to measure it more accurately and we'll update the world when we get the final word on it."
Its size wasn't the only thing that stood out, said Wilson. "The spiral nature of it just sitting in the water column was very unusual," Wilson said. "Normally, they kind of hang like a piece of string. We all knew we were seeing something pretty special."
More about siphonophore Apolemia, sea creature, colonial organism, NingalooCanyons expedition, schmidt ocean institute
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