Tropical marine invertebrates called pyrsomes are appearing in record numbers on the U.S. West Coast in areas where they had rarely been seen before. Photo: Steve Morey / National Geographic

JUNEAU, Alaska, 3 July 2017 (The Associated Press) – Strange sea creatures that resemble large pink thimbles are showing up on the coast of southeast Alaska for the first time after making their way north along the West Coast for the last few years.

Scientists say the creatures are pyrosomes, which are tropical, filter-feeding spineless creatures usually found along the equator. They appear to be one long pink tube, but in reality, they're thousands of multi-celled creatures mushed together, generally about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.

Pyrosomes have been working their way north, Ric Brodeur, a researcher with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Associated Press on Monday.

Brodeur, who is based at the agency's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon, said pyrosomes were first seen on the Oregon coast in 2014 and every year since. More recently, the animals have made their way up farther north on the Washington state coast, Canada's British Columbia and Alaska.

Jim Murphy, a biologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said pyrosomes spotted near Alaska this year marked the first documented presence of the animals that far north, and their appearance is cause for concern.

"It means that we are clearly seeing really big changes in the marine ecosystem," he told The Juneau Empire. [more]

Scientists baffled by strange sea creatures near Alaska


By Kevin Gullufsen
21 June 2017

(The Juneau Empire) – Fishing for winter king salmon in February, Don Jeske found himself in the middle of an invasion.

They came in the millions, most of them about 6 inches long and resembling long, pink thimbles. They swamped his commercial trolling gear on his boat the Tricia Marie.

In his 50 years trolling for salmon around Sitka, he has had never seen anything like it.

“They were all over out there, they were everywhere. … I would say millions, not hundreds of thousands,” Jeske told the Empire in a Wednesday phone interview. “… This is a weird organism, man. I don’t have a clue.”

Scientists have now confirmed that Jeske had encountered a biomass of a pyrosomes — tropical, filter feeding and spineless creatures.

They’re tube-shaped bunches of multi-celled animals and their recent appearance on the coast of Southeast Alaska has scientists scratching their heads.

“This is the first documented presence of these animals this far north,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association biologist Jim Murphy on Wednesday. “It’s not a single organism, it’s thousands of them that are kind of mushed together in a tube.” […]

This is at least the second invertebrate invasion in the past year. Another filter feeding species, known as a sea butterfly, appeared last summer in unusual numbers, Muphy said.

He’s not sure if the two are connected, but he did say it’s been a “highly unusual” year for Southeast marine life. [more]

Invasion from ‘Borg of the ocean’ baffles scientists

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