Pyrosomes are a type of rare, gelatinous and bioluminescent sea creatures. Usually very hard to spot, this year, they have been appearing everywhere, from the Southern California waters to the Gulf of Alaska, according to reports. This has been confusing scientists, as they are unsure what might have caused this abundance.
These strange creatures derive their name from the Greek word “Pyrosoma”, which would translate into “fire body”. They seem to be about one to two feet long, although, in some occasion, they can grow to be up to thirty feet.
Although gelatinous, these creatures are also covered in small bumps and reportedly not related to jellyfish. Pyrosomes are considered to be part of a colony of zooids, multi-celled animals.
Usually, such creatures can be found in the waters off Florida or Australia, in the Mediterranean Sea or the Ivory Coast. Smaller specimens seem to move up and down water columns by using little hairs called cilia.
Phytoplankton Blooms Bring About Pyrosomes?
The pyrosomes’ place in the food chain has yet to be determined. For the moment, scientists only know that they can filter phytoplankton. Blooms of these latter have also been appearing in unexpectedly high numbers over the years.
Some scientists consider that the increase in phytoplankton could have also led to the recent mass appearance of this bizarre sea pickle.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that pyrosomes reached a mass oceanic status sometime in the spring of 2017.
According to researchers, the bizarre sea pickles ‘pose no immediate threat’ to people. However, they can greatly affect human activities such as fishing. Reports show that the fishing industry in Alaska and Oregon has been quite affected by pyrosomes. These have been either washing ashore in high numbers or clogging the fishing gear.
Scientists reportedly needed only some five minutes to collect around 60,000 such specimens from the Columbia River.
“They just got here and have been flourishing — just super abundant. But that’s the weird thing: Why here? Why now?” said Jennifer Fisher.
She is a faculty research assistant part of the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center.
At least for the moment, researchers are uncertain as to the reproduction rates of these sea pickles. They are also uncertain as to how and to what extent they could affect future aquatic food distribution. Scientists also have yet to determine the exact cause of the appearance of this increasingly more widespread but previously rare species.
Image Source: Wikimedia