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Glowing Sea Creatures Are Mobbing the Pacific Coast and No One Knows Why

A pyrosome with two fish hiding inside. | Shutterstock
A pyrosome with two fish hiding inside. | Shutterstock

The Pacific has experienced three years of "unprecedented warm water" due to "The Blob," a toxic bloom of algae. It changed the ecosystem, starving large marine life like sea lions that washed ashore from Alaska to the Pacific Northwest. That's over, but it's been followed by something strange and needs its own 50s-esque sci-fi horror movie title. (The Squishers? The Ooze From Out There?) 

Millions of pyrosomes have begun mobbing the Pacific coast. These weird pickle-shaped invaders have been described by National Geographic as "primitive-seeming jellyfish-like bioluminescent sea creatures." Pyrosomes are actually a colony of multi-celled zooids that reproduce asexually forming hollow tubes, and they've been seen up to two feet in length along the west coast. However, in their native regions, they can grow to 30 feet.

They're usually found in the tropics, but they're hitting the Pacific coast in never-before-seen numbers. They're getting caught in research nets, stuck on fish hooks, and washing up on beaches. NatGeo even reports that one research net pulled up more than 60,000 of them in just five minutes. 

No one knows why it's happening. Nat Geo and many researchers suggest the toxic algae bloom plays a role. Researchers don't know what caused this invasion (which has been building for months) and they aren't sure what the repercussions will be. Though, they're sure there will be ecological consequences. 

"Right now, these are only visitors, not an invasive species, yet," Moira Galbraith, a zooplankton taxonomist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C., told the CBC. "They are here for now, until the currents take them elsewhere."

Nonetheless, pyrosomes pose a threat to the food chain from the bottom to the top. 

As far as your summer vacation to the Northwest, you might spot some on the shores, but they don't really pose any kind of threat. Though, if you find an enormous one and are for some reason smitten with the idea of swimming into it, don't do it. It should go without saying, but that's a horrible idea.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. Follow him @dlukenelson.