This Tiny Purple Orb Stumps Scientists

What glows purple, is round with hundreds of tiny protrusions and lives on the ocean floors of California’s southern coasts? Stumped? Scientists don’t know, either.

Researchers aboard the Ocean Exploration Trust’s E/V Nautilus were flabbergasted to find this semi-luminescent purplish blob nestled in a seafloor crevice. The expedition, which was launched to study coral, demonstrates that the best time to discover something new is when you aren’t looking for it in the first place. The footage — recorded live — shows the brown ocean floor, barren except for the strange globe and a crab. After a brief moment of tension when the crab appears to go for the spherical oddity, the Nautilus safely retrieves the organism via suction tube for further research. First guesses as to the object’s identity included an egg sac or a tunicate, but now it appears the unidentified species, which unfolds into two separate lobes, may be a type of sea slug.

Sea slugs, or nudibranches, are vibrantly colored mollusks that live on the sea floor and eat a variety of invertebrates, including jellyfish and crustaceans. They can even secrete toxins obtained from those jellyfish to deter predators. Despite their striking appearance, they’re quite rare. Watch this video to learn more.

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