KEY POINTS

  • An alien-looking sea creature was spotted off the coast of Australia
  • The creature was discovered by a marine expedition team
  • The siphonophore could be the longest animal ever discovered

A strange alien-looking creature spotted off the coast of Australia could be the longest animal ever discovered. The creature was caught on video by a team of marine biologists during an underwater expedition.

The strange creature has been identified as a siphonophore, which is comically referred to in certain Australian regions as “long stringy stingy thingy” due to its appearance. It was spotted off the coast of Western Australia.

 The siphonophore appears like a long white string floating in the sea. According to scientists, the organism is actually composed of numerous creatures known as zooids that joined together and cloned themselves. As a result, they were able to create a very long tentacle-like organic structure that looks and functions like an organ and an organism.

“In a way, these specialized bodies function as organs,” marine biologist Stefan Siebert of Brown University told Wired. “Some move the colony, some feed for the colony, some take care of reproduction.”

According to Siebert, siphonophores start off as a fertilized egg before developing into a larva. As it matures, it develops other parts of its body such as its mouth and its first tentacle.

The siphonophore was discovered by the Ningaloo Canyons Expedition, a team of international marine biologists that include researchers from the Schmidt Ocean Institute, Western Australia Museum and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The biologists were on an expedition to study parts of Western Australia’s coast when their rover came across the siphonophore. Although the team hasn’t officially measured the siphonophore yet, the pilots of the rover estimated that the creature could be about 154 feet long. This makes it about 50 feet longer than the biggest living animal in the world, which is the blue whale.

Although marine biologists often come across siphonophores during expeditions, the latest sighting excited members of the team due to its length and appearance.

“Everyone was blown away when it came into view,” biologists Nerida Wilson and Lisa Kirkendale told Science Alert. “There was a lot of excitement. People came pouring into the control room from all over the ship. Siphonophores are commonly seen but this one was both large and unusual-looking.”