New, Beautiful, Luminous Creature Illuminates the Waters of the Red Sea

First Posted: Feb 08, 2016 08:21 AM EST

The Red Sea is one of the most well-known tourist destinations. Despite it being well-visited, though, there are still animals waiting to be discovered. Now, researchers have announced that they've found a new kind of beautiful, luminous creature.

During the investigation of the biodiversity of coral reefs of the archipelago Farasan, which is south of the Red Sea, biologists looked at marine life under the UV-light with yellow filters. As a result, the scientists found "fluorescent lanterns" that were very similar to hydrae. Unlike their distant relatives that lead solitary lives in fresh water, the new species form spreading colonies that decorate miniature shells of gastropods with green lights.

"Sea hydroids, unlike hydrae, are often found in colonizes and can branch off tiny jellyfish," said Vyacheslav Ivanenko, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The unusual green glow of these hydrozoas (presumably, a new species of the genus Cytaeis, whose body length reaches 1.5 mm) was revealed in the peristomal area of the body."

Such unusual symbioses are poorly studied, and the role of the glow has not been investigated yet at all. In this latest study, zoologists suggest that glow around the mouth of polyps may attract prey. These "fluorescent flashlights" may be visible to other invertebrates in the moonlight, and at sunset and sunrise.

The new discovery raises new questions about how these polyps choose their host and how the activity of the luminous hydroids change during the day.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.

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