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Glowing Sea Creatures Bloom In Droves Along US West Coast

First Posted: Jun 14, 2017 05:43 AM EDT

Sea temperatures finally cooled this year after three years of unprecedented warm waters along the West Coast. The effect of such cooling led to the presence of shrimp-like krill, which returned along the coast and started providing rich meals for salmon. Even sea lions and other marine mammals seem to look healthier, and things seem to be back to normal.

But such normalcy did not last long. This past spring, millions of jellyfish-like bioluminescent sea creatures up to 2 feet (24 inches) long started showing up. They have invaded nets, been stuck in fishing hooks and even cascaded onto the beaches along the West Coast. National Geographic reported that the gelatinous animals are called pyrosomes. They started swarming the eastern Pacific in masses that has never been recorded before.

Jennifer Fisher, a faculty research assistant from Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center, called the phenomenon "weird," admitting that she has never seen anything like it before. Richard Brodeur, a research biologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that he never saw these pyrosomes in such sheer numbers. However, he did know about them, saying that they have been spotted in California, but never off the coast from there.

Chinook Observer noted that the pyrosomes can be found up to a depth of 100 meters (328 feet) in the ocean, which is as far as the Oregon State's equipment could go. The pyrosomes seemed to have hung in the water like an army. At night, they drifted near the surface.

Although these pyrosomes look like individual bodies, they are actually made up of individual clones. They are physically linked, and a single visible pyrosome could contain hundreds, even thousands, of individual animals. While not apparent in those seen on the West Coast, elsewhere, pyrosomes are said to be massive and could even be bioluminescent. In fact, it is likely how they got their name. "Pyrosome" is a combination of Greek words "pyro" and "soma," which mean "fire" and "body," respectively.

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