Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Science Blog


Millions of glowing tropical sea creatures have started to appear in the Pacific Northwest 

 Millions of strange-looking glowing sea creatures called pyrosomes have started to "bloom" off the coast of the Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada, filling up fishing nets, clogging hooks and research gear, and befuddling scientists who have no idea why populations of the tube-like organisms are exploding, flooding the water column. 

 "Call it the invasion of the pyrosomes," writes Michael Milstein in a post on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center website. They started to show up in the spring and in the past month or two, swarms of the animals been spotted all over the region. Pyrosomes are odd creatures — they're technically tunicates, colonies of individual organisms known as zooids that feed off of plankton and other small organisms. 

They have little bumps, are about as firm as a cucumber or pickle, and are gelatinous like jellyfish. They're translucent and bioluminescent, which gives them a glow (the word pyrosome means "fire body"). And while they can occasionally be found further north, they typically inhabit tropical waters, which makes the appearance of these massive quantities strange and disturbing to fishermen who worry that they could devastate a fragile food network.

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