Australian Scientists Discover Massive Deep Sea Predator That Looks Like Silly String

By

CCSS NAS-3
The massive siphonophore was discovered in the waters off western Australia (Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute)

On March 16, 2020, researchers aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute's ship Falkor stumbled upon a beautiful *giant* Apolemia, a type of siphonophore, in the Indian Ocean off western Australia. The scientists are not sure of the exact length of the silly string-like creature, which was found in the Ningaloo Canyons at a depth of 2,070 feet (631 meters). However, based on the measurement of its outer ring by a laser-equipped drone, they estimate it was 150 feet (46 meters) long.

"We think it's the longest animal recorded to date," Dr. Carlie Wiener, director of marine communications at the institute, told USA TODAY.

Each siphonophore is a colony of thousands of individuals (Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute/Instagram)

Siphonophores, which are related to jellyfish, are deep-sea predators that prey on tiny crustacean and fish using the vast array of stinging cells on their tentacles. Though they appear as a single organism, every specimen is a gelatinous colony made up of thousands of individuals, each fulfilling a specialized function. Some are responsible for catching prey, while others are charged with distributing the nutrients throughout the colony.

Dr. Rebecca Helm, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, who was not part of the expedition, believes the find is significant because siphonophores are fragile and hard to find. "I've gone on numerous expeditions and have never, EVER, seen anything like this," she wrote in a tweet. "THIS animal is massive. AND not just massive, the colony is exhibiting a stunning behavior: it's hunting." The researcher, who specializes in the evolution and development of jellyfish, speculates that because it takes a long time for life to grow in the near-freezing deep sea temperatures, this creature could be "tens, possibly HUNDREDS of years old."

This was not the only intriguing animal discovered by the Schmidt Ocean Institute researchers during their investigation of the rarely explored deep-sea areas in and around Australia. Their month-long expedition across Bremer Bay, Perth Canyon, and the Ningaloo Canyons, which involved 20 dives, has led to the discovery of about 30 new species! Here is a glimpse of the amazing underwater world the lucky scientists experienced.

Resources: USAtoday.com, schmidtocean.org, www.slashgear.com



Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
254 Comments
  • coolvae
    coolvaeWednesday, August 5, 2020 at 12:47 pm
    I don't know how LOOONG it is.
    • ceebee
      ceebeeTuesday, August 4, 2020 at 5:38 am
      It looks like a LOOOOOONG string
      • 11008800
        11008800Monday, July 13, 2020 at 4:31 pm
        It doesn't look like a predator but it might be dangerous!!
        • happypig2020
          happypig2020Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 4:01 pm
          It's interesting that it's never been spotted before and it's the longest animal recorded in history. That's cool!
          • i_like_roblox
            i_like_robloxTuesday, June 30, 2020 at 1:32 pm
            It is pretty cool... but at the same time, it is also a preditor.
            • hermione2008
              hermione2008Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 10:26 am
              I’m shocked that it’s a predator.
              • kandykain0821
                kandykain0821Wednesday, June 10, 2020 at 2:35 pm
                It kind of looks like a jellyfish, but a very long one. Very interesting!
                • i_love_books
                  i_love_booksThursday, June 4, 2020 at 12:38 pm
                  That. Is. So. COOL!!!
                  • i_love_books
                    i_love_booksThursday, June 4, 2020 at 8:02 am
                    WOW. This is the coolest thing I have ever seen, next to the 4 new species of walking sharks!
                    • theodd1sout1
                      theodd1sout1Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 11:33 am
                      It kinda looks a parasite... Gross but still it is really cool.