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In Australia's Deep: 'We Couldn't Believe What We Were Seeing'

Apolemia, a Silly String-like marine creature, could be longest animal ever seen
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2020 11:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists exploring underwater canyons in Western Australia say they've discovered up to 30 new marine species, including what's thought to be the longest animal ever seen. The Apolemia, belonging to the siphonophore family of marine organisms related to jellyfish, is made up of millions of tiny clones that together look like a very long, spiraling piece of Silly String. The outer ring alone was estimated at 154 feet, or about twice as long as the average blue whale, per the Guardian. But "the entire creature is much, much longer ... possibly over 390 feet long," a rep for the nonprofit Schmidt Ocean Institute tells Newsweek. It was spotted as a remotely operated vehicle, which had been exploring depths of 14,500 feet, ascended to 2,000 feet in the Gascoyne Coast Bioregion.

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While many researchers had already left the control room, they soon came pouring in, says expedition leader Nerida Wilson of the Western Australian Museum. "It was just amazing to see this huge organism spread out like a spiral UFO, hovering in the water column," she tells the Guardian. "We couldn't believe what we were seeing." It's thought the Apolemia works just like smaller versions, with clones seizing and devouring prey, including crustaceans, before the nutrients are distributed to the colony. The expedition also revealed Australia's first giant hydroids, as well as what may be new species of octopus squid, long-tailed sea cucumber, and glass sponges, per the Guardian, though Wilson says it could be years before any species are confirmed as undocumented. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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