WEST COAST ― Strange sea creatures have made their way into the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Northern California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. The vast number of these sea creatures, called pyrosomes, is also surprising as these species are normally found in tropical oceans.
Fishermen have found them a nuisance as they stick to hooks and nets, since they feed on the same plankton as the fish.
Just last month, a mass of pyrosomes washed up on the shore of Monterey Bay. A couple weeks ago, scientists in British Columbia came across a swarm of them.
Pyrosomes means fire bodies in Greek as “pyro” means fire and “some” means body. They were given that name because they are bioluminescent, according to Ocean Network Canada’s staff scientist Fabio De Leo.
“Pyrosomes are colonial tunicates. They have some characteristics that resemble a vertebrate when they are in their early stages of development. They have a resemblance of a spinal cord in the very early stages of development. They are cucumber like shape [and] have filtered feeders… feeding on plankton,” De Leo said.
He attributes their presence to warmer waters just as warm water sharks have made their way all the way up to Alaska.
“When a new species invades a new area in the ocean, normally it takes over. There is a predator for those animals in the tropics,” De Leo stated. “But here in the Pacific they don’t have any natural predators, so they just start blooming away,”
Ocean Networks Canada photo