I'm currently re-discovering Jeff Van Der Meer's Area X / Southern Reach Trilogy via Audible, because I thought a familiar Weird Sci-Fi story about an invisible lifeform that kind of ambiently inhabits the world around us, changing things in imperceptible ways until it's too late, would be a relaxing respite from the chaotic news of COVID-19.
That may have been a bad decision. I'm even more terrified now. Then I learned about this in Newsweek:
A team aboard the RV Falkor—the flagship research vessel of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI)—spotted the organism, a type of siphonophore known as Apolemia, using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in a deep-sea environment known as the Ningaloo Canyons.
Resembling a long piece of string, siphonophores—a group of creatures related to jellyfish and corals—may look like one organism, but they are actually made up of many thousands of individual, specialized clones that come together to form a single entity.
With the help of lasers mounted onto their ROV—known as SuBastian—the Falkor scientists estimated that this siphonophore's outer ring measured 49 feet in diameter, suggesting that this section alone is 154 foot in length, or about as tall as an 11-story building.
Check out this beautiful *giant* siphonophore Apolemia recorded on #NingalooCanyons expedition. It seems likely that this specimen is the largest ever recorded, and in strange UFO-like feeding posture. Thanks @Caseywdunn for info @wamuseum @GeoscienceAus @CurtinUni @Scripps_Ocean pic.twitter.com/QirkIWDu6S
— Schmidt Ocean (@SchmidtOcean) April 6, 2020
As I've now learned, these things are in fact "colonial organisms," rather than individual beings. And that this particular siphonophore Apolemia is insanely large. I'm not sure if that latter detail makes me feel any better about the fact that there are smaller jelly-string-clone-hive creatures flailing around the oceans. But now I'm definitely staying home, because this universe is far too bizarre and terrifying to comprehend.
Otherworldly, string-like organism spotted in deep sea is made up of 'millions of interconnected clones' [Aristos Georgiou / Newsweek]
Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons