Have you ever heard of a Solumbellula sea pen? We're going to be honest with you: We had not!
That's probably not something to feel too bad about though. There are a lot of creatures in the sea! This particular variety of sea pen—which is relative of jellyfish is a rare one. In fact it had not yet been seen outside the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
But now, an NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) research expedition to the Johnson Atoll—an island to the west of Hawaii—has found a Solumbellula in the Pacific for the first time. And what an example of the species!
This incredible specimen is about 2 metres (7 feet) long, and has tentacles that are around 40 centimetres (16 inches) long. And it was found far below the surface—2,994 m (9,823 feet) down! The creature resembles a drifting alien—peaceful, yet maybe a tiny bit spooky!
But if you really want to be amazed, get ready for this next fact ...
It is a coral
Yes! It is a coral! How?
Well, as we mentioned recently, corals are animals. And each one is a huge colony of hundreds of identical creatures called polyps. The tiny polyps live together in a skeleton, which acts like their apartment building. There they spend their time feeding on yummy stuff that drifts by.
In the case of this Solumbellula sea pen, it is really just an enormous single polyp. Instead of living inside a hard skeleton, this coral just floats happily. What a curious life! One that has been caught on camera for the first time, thanks to the NOAA Exploration Vehicle Nautilus.
To get an even better picture of how cool this find is, listen in to the scientists controlling Nautilus as their minds get blown seeing this Pacific 'coral' for the first time. Science is awesome!