Wednesday 9 July 2014

Adorable Alien!

That's an alien if ever I saw one! But it's not trying to take over the world, snatch our bodies or conduct so-called "experiments" with unwholesome probes and such. It's happy just to bob around like a sweetie-pie!

This particular alien is a siphonophore, and as such is among the weirdest of the weird.

Siphonophores are a group of animals within the phylum Cnidaria, alongside jellyfish, sea anemones and corals. Many Cnidarians take on both the jellyfish and the sea anemone mode of living at some point in their life cycle. Often they start out as a polyp, like a little sea anemone stuck to the sea floor. Then, as they get older, they turn into a medusa, which is a jellyfish that slowly drifts and swims away before it breeds.

Most corals are colonial creatures - they're made up of lots of tiny polyps who are all stuck together so that they share nutrients among themselves. Siphonphores are colonial, too, but the cool thing about them is they're made up of both jellyfish AND polyps!

The most famous siphonophore is the Portuguese Man o' War, who floats on the sea's surface using a big bag of gas called a pneumatophore. The majority of siphonophores live below the surface. Some have a kind of sinister beauty about them. Others are mainly disgusting. Very few can be said to be "cute".

Thank goodness for this little cutey!

This one seems to have a pneumatophore, too. It's the smooth globe on the top. We're in in the deep sea though, so clearly it's nowhere near as buoyant as the Man o' War's. Beneath it is a whole bundle of medusae, lots of jellyfish pumping away so that it can get around in the water. And beneath them are the polyps, armed with tentacles and stinging cells for catching food that they'll share with the jellyfish.

It looks quite similar, though not identical, to the Deep Sea Dandelion we've seen before. I might market it as a FLOOZY for kids!


TexWisGirl said...

bizarre little ballerina!

Porakiya said...

it is quite cute in a weird sort of way :/

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: Haha! I'm trying to work out which bit is the tutu!

@Porakiya Draekojin: The best sort of way!