Researchers exploring the deep oceans off the western coast of Australia have discovered what they are claiming may be the longest animal ever recorded. The spiral Siphonophore spotted by the team of scientists aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute's Falkor research vessel has been estimated to be 150-feet-long, which is an approximate 50 feet longer than a blue whale - widely held to be the largest animal to have ever existed.
The expedition, which plumbed to depths of almost 4,500m via its SuBastian underwater robot discovered as many as 30 new underwater species - or at the very least, species that haven't ever been observed in those waters - including a variety of bioluminescent octopus squid, a long-tailed sea cucumber, various molluscs and barnacles, as well as others that have been collected and will be exhibited at the Western Australian Museum, as per the Schmidt Ocean Institute.
However, it is the sighting of the incredible Siphonophore that is most remarkable, and justifiably so. It was found while the submersible robot was on its way back up from a long dive, at a time when the team monitoring it least expected to find something and were purportedly even dispersing from the control room aboard the Falkor.
Hypnotic visuals of the creature reveal a gigantic spiraling white-coloured tube, with a clear 'origin' and perhaps even an end, with the spirals even overlapping at certain points.
“It’s just magic being there and sharing those things for the first time,” Dr. Wilson said.#NingalooCanyons expedition in @nytimes: https://t.co/oqBlkkncaG— Schmidt Ocean (@SchmidtOcean) April 14, 2020
With collaborators @WAMuseum @CurtinUni @GeoscienceAus @Scripps_Ocean @WAMSInews pic.twitter.com/taOfyGOhwy
A taxonomical check reveals Siphonophores to actually comprise a 'colony' of zooids - essentially clusters of cloned cells that allow them to have such a long body. They are known to exist in the deep sea, and are carnivorous, using dangling tentacles to catch small prey, much like Jellyfish. In fact, it is not from the Blue whale, rather from a variety of jellyfish that this particular Siphonophore specimen is taking the record of 'world's longest animal'. The Lion's Mane Jellyfish, which is another creature worthy of Googling, is billed as having a length of up to 120 feet, mostly in tentacles.
Dr Nerida Wilson, who led the month-long research voyage in the Indian Ocean and spotted the Siphonophore at the deep-sea canyons off Australia's Nigaloo coast, didn't over-science up her description when she was speaking to the New York Times, saying that it looked like a UFO, though perhaps a galaxy is a more accurate representation of what it resembles.
“We suspected these deep sea areas would be diverse but we have been blown away by the significance of what we have seen,” Dr Wilson said, though she added a caveat about the Siphonophore's length, saying "Just a quick fact check though, we never estimated it's length, and are working on measuring it accurately. This Might Be the Longest Creature Ever Seen in the Ocean"
“There is so much we don’t know about the deep sea, and there are countless species never before seen,” added Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute.