Weird Tube-Like Creature Baffles Divers Off The Coast Of Australia


The creature was found bobbing along in the waters off Port Douglas, Australia. Bruce Tuten/Flickr CC BY 2.0

I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you that the deep ocean is filled with some truly weird stuff, from the terrifying dragon fish to the adorable Dumbo octopus. But every so often, a picture surfaces of yet another oddity from the ocean, this time courtesy of Abc Scuba Diving.

In the waters off Port Douglas, Australia, divers came across a giant translucent tube, with a bizarre pink sheen to its surface. Looking like something straight out of the 1989 classic The Abyss, the divers were initially unsure what the 3-meter-long (10-foot-long) creature might be. 


The bizarre sea creature is actually what is known as a giant pyrosome, and isn’t just one organism, but actually many. The long transparent tube is made up of thousands of individual clones that come together to form the hollow structure. Each one – only a few milimeters in size – is its own entity, drawing in water from the outside, filtering out food particles like algae, and then expelling the water into the inside of the giant cylinder of the colony.


They are known as pyrosomes from the Greek for fire (“pryro”) and body (“soma”), as not only do the little animals form these massive colonies, but they are also bioluminescent. The light that they produce is noted for being unusually bright and long lasting. They frequently pulse the light along the cylinder, as when one starts emitting, its neighbor often follows suit. Not only that, but it has also been noted that when one colony starts to bioluminesce, other nearby colonies will join in the light show.

The creatures can reproduce clonally, meaning that any damage done to the tube can be easily repaired and filled in. Each individual clone is also hermaphroditic, in that they make both the eggs and sperm. It is thought that if two colonies happen to bump into each other in the ocean, they will have sexual reproduction, in addition to the asexual reproduction they do when they clone themselves and bud off.

And as if all of that was not weird enough, the sea tube is actually amazingly closely related to us. Pyrosomes are part of the tunicate group of animals, meaning that the individual critters each contain a notochord, or primitive backbone, and thus are classed as chordates, just like you and I.


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