Salpa Maggiore Sea Creature: A See-Through Rarity


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About 40 miles off the Karikari Peninsula, fisherman Stewart Fraser pulled a pellucid oddity out of the ocean.

While fishing with his two sons, Fraser saw the animal anomaly floating atop the waters. He described his tactile experience with it as being “scaly and quite firm… and you couldn’t see anything aside from this orange little blob inside.” Neither he nor his friends had seen anything like it before.

Uh… wasn’t he afraid the thing might eject projectile Alien acid at (or at least sting) him?

"I was in two minds whether to haul it in,” Fraser conceded, “but curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to take a closer look.”

Well, curiosity didn’t kill the catfish in this case. The reason it didn’t sting him is that while the creature - called a Salpa maggiore (aka Salpa maxima) - does closely resemble jellyfish, it really isn’t. Actually, they more closely are related to other marine invertebrates.

Even though these sea creatures are see-through, they still have gills and heart. Their bodies, encased in a sac with openings at either end, moves along when water pumps in and out of those openings (called siphons). That way, they can shoot around the ocean like aqueous inchworms between meals.

With that sort of diet, their lack of opacity makes sense. When brunch is served at the surface of the sea, you’re a sitting duck and open to predators. It’s evident that an evolutionary invisibility cloak of clear camouflage could come in quite handy if you’d like to dine without being devoured yourself before dessert.

But the vitreous veneer and the slinky motility aren’t the only majestic qualities about salps (that’s what the scientists nickname them - “salps”). These transparent tunicates can become 10 inches in length, produce offspring sans sexual reproduction, and can talk to each other using electrical currents.

That’s right. By linking up into a chain with their pals, salps speak and synchronize movements. It’s a part of a unique cycle the species shares where they move, grow, and reproduce as a group. Outside Online described this cycle, saying, they “exist both as individuals and part of an aggregate organism.”

Simultaneously retaining individuality while committing to the collective? Salps might feast at the water’s surface, but they sure sound pretty deep. Naturally, this raises the one question Americans are yearning to know:

How do they taste wrapped in seaweed with rice and drowned in soy sauce?

Image via Youtube