Mysterious purple orb creature found off California coast

27 Jul 2016

Purple orb image via Ocean Exploration Trust

Lurking beneath the murky depths off the Californian coast, a sea creature of unknown origin has been discovered by marine researchers.

“What is that?” Those were the words of the research team from the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) aboard the Nautilus floating laboratory after catching a perplexing purple orb on camera.

The submarine had been scanning the sea floor, using its high-resolution camera to explore the marine life around California’s Channel Islands when, all of a sudden, the peculiar-looking, deep purple-coloured orb came into focus.

According to the OET team, the Nautilus’s mission is to chart and study the region’s deep-sea corals having made its way down from the western coast of Canada back in May.

Just off the coast of the city of Los Angeles, the islands and the coral beneath the ocean’s surface are in one of the most tectonically active areas due to their proximity to the San Andreas Fault.

When watching the video, it’s hard not to have your attention drawn to the mysterious purple blob against a backdrop of browns and greys, and the researchers’ immediate guesses suggest it could be a creature of planktonic origin.

Slurped aboard the lab

It was also suggested that, based on its structure, it could be an egg sac or embryo of an altogether different animal.

From the incredible footage, we can see that the research team was facing a dramatic stand-off between the Nautilus and a nearby crab who was also interested in the purple orb.

The OET team eventually got the orb onto the floating lab for testing using its ‘slurp’ vacuum device and were able to shed a sliver of light on what it might be.

“This unidentified purple orb stumped our scientists onboard,” the Nautilus revealed on its website. “After sampling, it began to unfold to reveal two distinct lobes. This could possibly be a new species of nudibranch.”

Among some of the most eye-catching species in our oceans, nudibranchs are soft-bodied marine gastropod molluscs that shed their shells after their larval stage.

In a follow-up comment on the Nautilus YouTube page, the researchers admitted that it will take some time before it can even be determined what exactly creature it is.

“We won’t know definitively what it is for a while,” they wrote. “It could possibly take years for scientists to determine if it’s a new species. Our team preserved the sampled specimen and it will be sent off to a lab for further investigation.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic