Millions Of Sea Pickles Appear Off Pacific Coast

Posted: Jun 30 2017, 6:55am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 30 2017, 7:00am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Millions of Sea Pickles Appear off Pacific Coast
Credit: Hilarie Sorensen/University of Oregon

Strange, tubular creatures are flooding western coastal waters from California to Alaska

The waters off West Coast are filled with strange, jelly-like, tubular creatures this year. These are clogging fishing nets, washing upon beaches and interfering with research equipments, but no one knows exactly where they came from.

These odd-looking sea creatures are actually called pyrosomes. They were first spotted off the Western coastal waters in 2015 but now they are appearing in an unusually large number, causing problems from fisherman and leaving scientists completely baffled.

“There's been unusual things happening in the ocean.” Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told CNN. “Somehow these guys drifted into the picture and multiplied ... it's still something of a puzzle.”

Pyrosomes are unusually found in tropical waters, but they can be seen further north as far back as British Columbia once in a while. They live in colonies, made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals. These colonies are technically called zooids that feed on plankton and other small organisms. Pyrosomes can grow up to 30 long, but the ones currently flooding the waters West Coast from California to Alaska are relatively small in size. They look more like translucent cucumbers, earning them the nickname of “sea pickles.”

Their numbers in West Coast are especially concerning. Researchers from NOAA say that their research net pulled up approximately 60,000 pyrosomes during just a five-minute boat trip in May. Fisherman also reported large catches of strange creature off Oregon early in the season. They claim almost every hook dragged in a pyrosome.

“At first we didn’t know what to make of these odd creatures coming up in our nets but as we headed north and further off shore, we started to get more and more,” said Hilarie Sorensen from University of Oregon who was aboard NOAA research ship on its May research trip off Oregon. “We began counting and measuring them to try to get a better understanding of their size and distribution related to the local environmental conditions.”

As pyrosomes are rarely seen off West Coast, researchers don’t know too much about them. In fact, the summer of 2014 was the first time many researchers saw actual pyrosomes in their life. The unprecedented, insane amount of pyrosomes has never seen here before.

We have a lot of questions and not many answers,” said Ric Brodeur of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s research station in Newport, Oregon. “We’re trying to collect as much information as we can to try to understand what is happening, and why.”

Some believe that the abundance of pyrosomes is linked to unusually warm ocean conditions along the coast as it resembles pyrosomes' natural tropical habitat.

“We’ve had warm ocean conditions over the past couple years, and something has brought them here. They’re just flourishing,” said Jennifer Fisher from Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. “It’s just very unusual to find them so close to shore, so evenly distributed and so abundant.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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