The Ocean Exploration Trust’s research vessel, E/V Nautilus, recently made an astonishing discovery on a previously unexplored seamount in the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) below the surface, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) filmed a peculiar-looking creature that immediately caught the attention of the ocean researchers on board the vessel.

"That is insane," one of the researchers can be heard saying in the video as he tries to process the weirdness of the animal waving mysteriously in front of the camera.

The creature was identified as a Solumbellula sea pen, which belongs to a large group of organisms called cnidarians. This classification of animals includes a number of species such as jellyfish, corals and sea anemones, that are equipped with specialised prey-catching cells called nematocysts.

The ROV video reveals breathtaking footage of the sea pen with its gently waving tentacles. The creature resembles an alien-like flower with a long white stem and orange-tinted gelatinous petals. Against the barren seascape with no other objects for scale, this sea pen’s size doesn’t seem all that impressive. However, the stalk of this lone drifter is approximately two metres (6.6 feet) in length and its tentacles stretch an additional 40 centimetres (15.7 inches) beyond that.

This is the first time the Solumbellula sea pen has been seen in the waters of the Pacific Ocean having only been recorded in the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the past, which makes this find extra special. The unlikelihood of finding this particular creature in the Pacific Ocean indicates that it may be an entirely new species, however, more research is needed to confirm or deny this.

The ROV video with commentary from the researchers on board shows how extraordinary this discovery is. “My mind is blown right now!” one researcher exclaims, expressing a common feeling when observing bizarre and remarkable deep-sea creatures, especially ones that turn up in unexpected places.


Header image: E/V Nautilus