R.R. Helm at DeepSeaNews.com is remarking this morning (June 30, 2014) on the remarkable discovery of a purple siphonophore, a relative of jellyfish. The most famous siphonophore is the portuguese man-of-war. Why is this one remarkable? R.R. Helm, who is a PhD candidate studying jellyfish development and evolution at Brown University, wrote:
I’ve seen red siphonophores like this, a couple orange, but never ever this strange purple-blue. It’s a shocking shade, and it makes me wonder what on earth a color like that is doing down so deep. Many deep-sea animals are red. Because there is no red light in the deep sea, very few animals can see red pigment (unless they make their own red light). In the deep sea, red looks like pitch black. But what about purple? Is there any benefit to being purple? Or is this just a side effect of something it eats or where it lives?
Answering these questions is difficult, because sightings of siphonophores like this one are pretty rare. These animals are only found in the very deep ocean, and though large, they’re still small compared to the miles of water a submersible had to travel in order to find one.
This creature made its appearance in a video collected as part of the Nautilus Live expedition. The expedition is being headed by Dr. Robert Ballard, who famously discovered the wreck of the Titanic. Watch the video here:
Bottom line: The Nautilus Live expedition created a video, and oceanographers have now commented on it, showing a stunning purple siphonophore, a relative of jellyfish.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.