A massive patch or “blob” of trouble experienced on the usually cool U.S. Pacific coast from 2013 to 2016 wreaked harm on the marine ecosystem. Fishermen in Alaska reported seeing domestic hot water sharks, while California beachgoers encountered tropical poisonous water snakes. Though the return of cooler temperatures in 2017 clear the part of most unwanted visitors, bioluminescent pyrosomes (Pyrosoma atlanticum) have decided to be and are generally now dish across the coast in unprecedented numbers.
Though they seem being a single organism, pyrosomes are colonies of hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of person creatures called zooids which have been enclosed inside a gelatinous thimble-shaped tube-like covering which can be open at one end. Also referred to as sea pickles, the pelagic creatures that are usually obtained in warm tropical waters are filter feeders. Actually they eat plankton by filtering plankton-rich water in, then expelling it through, the hollow interior from the colony. The efficient creatures use this mechanism to move. In line with biologist David Benett, “The combined force on the water from each zooid being ejected into this cavity and thus out of your colony’s rear thus propels it (pyrosome) along.”
The zooids possess light producing organs that illuminate in unison, emitting an amazing blue-green color which might be seen over 100 feet away. Sometimes, light in one colony causes other pyrosomes to glow also, leading researchers to suspect that your organisms use the light signals to speak.
Fascinating because they are, the pyrosome invasion within the U.S. Pacific coast produces much anguish. The creatures aren’t only clogging waterways and fishing gear and also hindering scientific experiments. In May, researchers in quest of an unusual fish while in the Columbia River gathered over 60,000 pyrosomes in their nets within 5 minutes. Long line fishermen aiming to catch salmon and halibut are instead locating the organisms on every hook. Some scientists are preoccupied that pyrosome carcasses might deplete the waters of oxygen that will create “dead zones” for other sea life.
Researchers are scrambling to learn why the creatures are appearing in these signifigant amounts. However, given that in the past, pyrosomes are extremely rare, there has been relatively little research done on these large colonies, which could grow between around 60 feet long. Although creatures have lots of natural predators including dolphins, whales, and certain type of fish it’d require good sized quantities in making an impact for the pyrosome population, that now stretches from northern California towards the Alaskan coast.
“For something that’s never really been here before, the densities are found mind-boggling,” said Laurie Weitkamp, a Northwest Fisheries Science Center biologist. “We’re just scratching our heads.” Hopefully, scientists can resolve the problem soon or even better, the jelly-like creatures will resume their warm habitat voluntarily.