Nautilus, the floating laboratory that surveys the bottom of the ocean, has found a strange purple orb in the Channel Islands near the coast of California.
The Channel Islands mission was focused on corals, but the weird sphere caught the attention of scientists. The scene was filmed by one of the Nautilus’ cameras.
The First Encounter
The discovery was made at 5,301 feet under the surface of the ocean, hiding under a rock.
As no one knew what the purple orb is, the researchers decided to capture it into a tube to observe it more closely. The fist hypothesis is that the sphere may be an embryo or an egg sac.
The creature is about two inches in size, and it has a bright purple color and looks spongy. The surface of the globe is somewhat rough, which could produce an increase in the surface of its exterior membrane or it could be an unknown protection mechanism.
While the researchers were trying to set out the tube, a crab gets close to the purple orb and starts to pick at it with one of its legs. However, Nautilus managed to intervene quickly and get the sphere.
The Purple Orb
After the scientists had the sphere safe on the ship, they started to analyze it. The sphere has to distinct lobes. The fist hypothesis is that the creature is a new species of nudibranch, even if none of the species of pleurobranch are purple.
The nudibranchs are soft body mollusks. Some of the species are very colorful, appearing in bright nuances of blue, pink and orange. They vary in shapes, and some species have protuberances.
The mollusks have lost their shells and developed other defense mechanisms, such as camouflage or vivid color patterns. They also create predator repellent chemicals and release acid from the skin.
The nudibranchs are carnivorous and feed on hydroids, sponges or bryozoans, and other small sea creatures.
The scientists will still need several months in order to determine if this is indeed a new species. Most of the times, the researchers make new discoveries in places where they were not expecting to find life. However, there is a possibility that the species is known, and it only was not seen in the Californian waters before.
The Nautilus ship is owned by the Ocean Exploration Trust, an organization founded by the oceanographer Robert Ballard. The ship traveled the eastern Pacific Ocean and published videos of its explorations.
The researchers say that it happens many times that they receive calls from other scientists who ask them to return to a particular place and collect a specimen that they have seen in the video.
Image Source: Wikipedia