The research vessel Nautilus is a floating laboratory equipped with cameras that can peer deep down to the ocean floor. Researchers with the Ocean Exploration Trust posted a video on Monday showing an unusual find. The Nautilus spied a small bright-purple orb underwater in the Channel Islands off the coast of California.
The main focus for the vehicle’s Channel Islands mission is to study deep-sea corals, but the odd sphere attracted the scientists’ attention. The video includes a soundtrack of the researchers making real-time observations as the camera sweeps along. They call it a “purple blob” and then wonder aloud “What is that?”
The researchers throw out some scientific names as possibilities before deciding to suck it up into a tube for a closer look. They wonder if it might be an egg sac or an embryo of some sort. There’s a moment of suspense as a crab closes in on the orb and jars it with its leg, but the Nautilus successfully grabs the sphere using a remote-controlled suction tube.
The Nautilus website offers an update on the oddball discovery: “This unidentified purple orb stumped our scientists onboard. After sampling, it began to unfold to reveal two distinct lobes. This could possibly be a new species of nudibranch.”
Nudibranchs are marine mollusks. They have soft bodies and some of them are quite colorful, appearing in bright shades of orange, blue and pink. Some have slug-like shapes, while others have small branch-like protuberances.
If you’re looking for answers as to exactly what the purple orb is, you’ll probably have to wait for some time. The Nautilus team notes, “It could take several years for scientists to determine if this organism is a new species.”