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Scientists Have Found the Longest Marine Organism on Australia’s Western Edge

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Apr 16, 2020

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Image credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

A 150 feet (45m) long, coiled mass — quite reminiscent of silly putty — is the longest marine organism ever seen. Spotted 2,000 feet below the water’s surface, the organism is called a siphonophore Apolemia.

“It looked like an incredible U.F.O.,” Dr. Nerida Wilson, a senior research scientist at the Western Australian Museum, told the New York Times. Previously, the longest known marine creature was the lion’s mane jellyfish, which comes up to an impressive 120 feet (36m). Blue whales, though still the largest organisms to live, are only nearly 100 feet long (30m).

Siphonophores are a class of hydrozoa, or predatory saltwater-based animals. Reproducing asexually via the budding process, siphonophores clone themselves thousands of times to create a large, string-like organism. Quite similar to jellyfish, siphonophores have a vast array of stinging cells on their tentacles, which they use to prey on tiny fish or crustaceans.


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Wilson and colleagues documented this organism and more via help from the Schmidt Ocean Institute, U.S. The team utilized a remotely piloted deep-sea robot named Subastian to capture 181 hours of marine footage from Western Australia waters. They also used a kitchen scrubbing brush attached to the robot in order to capture samples from other rare marine creatures like a bioluminescent Taning’s octopus squid.

“What’s fascinating about this particular part of the world is that it has not been explored,” Jyotika Virmani, executive director of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, told the New York Times. “Any time people go down into the deep sea, it’s so vast and yet so unexplored that it’s very easy to make new discoveries and to see something we’ve never seen before. It is like being on a new planet.”

Beyond the siphonophore, the research team identified up to 30 new species in Western Australia waters. With over 2,000 liters of water strained via filter papers, scientists are ready to extract the DNA from those samples and discover more new creatures that may live in this region.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a features writer with The Swaddle, with a focus on cultural commentary and reportage. Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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