– For some unknown reason millions of bizarre, luminous jelly-like creatures have suddenly appeared off the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Scientists are puzzled and currently no-one knows why these creatures have showed up.
Water along the western coast of the USA has been extremely warm for the last three years, but temperatures dropped in this year.
These animals are called pyrosomes and they are truly extraordinary. One long pyrosomes is actually a collection of thousands of clones, with each individual capable of copying itself and adding to the colony.
They are usually found in the tropics, but they are spotted once in a while as far north as British Columbia.
This spring they started swarming the eastern Pacific in masses never before recorded, stretching from Oregon to the Gulf of Alaska.
“It’s really weird,” says Jennifer Fisher, a faculty research assistant with Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Rick Brodeur, a research biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon who has studied jellies and other gelatinous creatures in the Pacific Northwest for 30 years also admits he has never seen anything like this before.
“It’s just unbelievable how many of them there are,” Brodeur says.
“They got here and have been flourishing—just super abundant,” Fisher says. “But that’s the weird thing: Why here? Why now?”
It is also unknown what they eat. it must be a ton.
“These guys probably consume a lot of food—they tend to eat very fine particles—but they have to consume a lot to reach those densities,” Brodeur says.
Whether they themselves serve as food for someone is also unknown. Some scientists fear there are now so many creatures in the water that when the animals finally die their decomposing bodies may suck vast amounts of oxygen from coastal seas, posing risks to other marine life.
“For something that’s never really been here before, the densities are just mind-boggling,” says Laurie Weitkamp, another biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “We’re just scratching our heads.”
Currently, we know very little about the huge “invasion” of pyrosomes along the West Coast.