The incredible video shows Ben Laurie crossing paths with the elusive 33ft pyrosome while diving near Cape Brett on New Zealand's North Island last month.
"Part of me did want to get close and touch it, but I was concerned about the danger of it being toxic so I kept my distance." The pyrosome feeds by filtering microscopic plant cells out of the sea which release filtered water inside the colony.
While the identity of the creature remains unknown, it is believed to be a pyrosome
, a floating colony made up of thousands of sea squirts which feeds by filtering microscopic plant cells out of the sea.
Some scientists identified warmer ocean climates as a driving factor in recent mass pyrosome
The zooplankton community is very diverse, ranging from unicellular to colonial individuals, such as heterotrophic protozoans and macroscopic animals, as some pyrosomes
[3, 4, 12].
The remaining 5% of the zooplankton community was composed of cladocerans, ostracods, doliolids, polychaete larvae, medusae, fish eggs, ctenophores, salps, cephalopod paralarvae, bivalves, isopods, appendicularians, pyrosomes
, mysiids, heteropods and echinoderms larvae, stomatopods and cirripeds.
Caption: A leatherback sea turtle, swimming toward a colonial mass of gelatinous pyrosomes
, can actually gain weight when it binges on flimsy jellies.
Moving farther up the water column and the marine food web are the jellyfish and sea cucumber-like creatures known as pyrosomes
or tunicates, great numbers of which were reported dead near the Deepwater Horizon wellhead last summer.
It's not yet clear which of many smoking guns killed the pyrosomes
. "We'll be working up the story of the relationship between dispersant, oil, gas, and the microbial community for some time to come," says Valentine.
Near the spill site, researchers have documented a massive die-off of pyrosomes
- cucumber-shaped, gelatinous organisms fed on by endangered sea turtles.
These animals include some radiolarmans and foraminifera, as well as medusae, siphonophores, ctenophores, chaetognaths, pteropods, heteropods, appendicularians, salps, doliolids, and pyrosomes
(e.g., Hamner et al., 1975).
Records of filter feeding zooplankton (salps, doliolids and pyrosomes
) are less frequent and in most cases not even properly recorded.