In the Pacific Ocean, pyrosomes — glowing, tube-like creatures that can be small or grow up to 30 feet long — have begun to appear in such large numbers that they are disturbing fishermen in the Pacific Northwest.
The jelly-like creatures, which are actually colonies of multi-celled animals known as zooids, had been so rare that some ocean scientists didn’t even know about them a few years ago, according to National Geographic. When the oceans warmed during the unusually warm weather of 2014 and 2015, pyrosomes began to appear in small numbers along with many other different kinds of animals unusual to the area.
In 2016, when waters began to cool, marine life began to get back to normal. But then, for some unknown reason, the pyrosomes began to multiply.
In the spring, millions of the creatures began to clog fishing nets and hooks from Oregon all the way to the Gulf of Alaska, National Geographic reported.
Scientists don’t know what to make of the creatures’ rapid proliferation.
“It’s really weird. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Oregon State marine science researcher Jennifer Fisher said, National Geographic reported.
Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working with several Oregon universities including Oregon State to try to solve the mystery of why the creatures have become so abundant in the Northwest. A five minute tow of a research net in May gathered 60,000 pyrosomes instead of rare fish the scientists wanted, according to NOAA reports.
Scientists aren’t sure what the creatures are eating or whether any fish or other marine animals eat them. Some pyrosomes have been found inside fish, but may have been accidental rather than intentionally eaten. Scientists are concerned about what will happen if large numbers of pyrosomes die off suddenly and take large amounts of oxygen out of the water.
Twitter users blamed climate change and joked about the animals.
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