Your guess is as good as anyone’s
When the Nautilus exploration vessel’s research team went probing around Channel Islands National Park a couple weeks ago, they didn’t expect to find a glowing, violet blob resting inconspicuously on the sea floor like a misplaced alien egg.
Just an hour outside of Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the Channel Islands each year. Though heavily trafficked, it seems oceanic mysteries still lie beneath the surface, as researchers quickly realized on their latest mission. Though only a few inches in diameter, the purple orb has baffled scientists, suggesting we may have a new species on our hands.
“I’m stumped, I have no idea—I couldn’t even hazard a guess,” one researcher says in a video of the momentous discovery. Some onboard surmised it must be some sort of sea slug or cnidarian, a category of species that includes coral and jellyfish, while others guessed it might be a new type of tunicate, also known as a sea squirt.
Toward the end of the video, you can see what looks like a duct-taped vacuum cleaner suction the purple orb out of its resting spot. According to the team’s website, once researchers were able to study it up close on the ship, they theorized it could be a new species of nudibranch after watching it naturally split into two halves.
If this sounds like something straight out of The X-Files, you’re not alone. As marine scientist Jeff Goddard tells Smithsonian.com, “Anytime you see a round structure like that you have to consider the possibility it’s an embryo. The purple orb would be an unusual egg mass, especially if it contained a single large egg/embryo.” But where did this embryo come from, exactly? That he hasn’t quite figured out.
Though this wouldn’t be the first time marine biologists have stumbled on what could be a completely new species. As recently as this past Tuesday, scientists published evidence supporting the existence of a new whale species, a dark, beaked variety that had previously been mere myth among Japanese fisherman, NPR reports.
Goddard expands on this point of infinite possibility, telling Smithsonian.com, “If we’re still discovering new species on the shore, just imagine what’s in the deep sea off the coast.”
So go ahead, let your imagination run wild.