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The ocean is full of mysteries. But few have grabbed the attention of the scientific community and the public as the recently-found "golden egg." Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stumbled upon the shiny orb two miles (3.2 km) deep in the Gulf of Alaska on August 20, 2023.
The scientists were exploring the area's marine habitats with a robotic diving vehicle when they spotted the dome-shaped object. Measuring about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, it lay on a rock amid some white sea sponges. A small hole in its base led the researchers to wonder if it was an egg case or a dead sponge attachment.
Curious to find out, the team grabbed the "golden egg" using the robotic vehicle's suction tube. A closer examination helped confirm that the object is biological in origin. However, the scientists are not sure if the specimen belongs to a new species or one that has already been discovered. They hope to determine that with a laboratory analysis once the expedition ends.
"We likely won't learn more until we are able to get it into a laboratory setting, where we can continue to pull from the collective expertise of the scientific community with more sophisticated tools than we are able to maintain on the ship," says expedition coordinator Sam Candio.
He adds, "While somewhat humbling to be stumped by this finding, it serves as a reminder of how little we know about our own planet and how much is left to learn and appreciate about our ocean."
Resources: oceanexpolorer.noaa.gov, CBSnews.com, allthatsinteresting.com