Scary, Ancient, Jelly-like Sea Squirt Found Off Oregon Coast

Credit: USGS.

An ancient, jelly-like invasive organism from Japan has been discovered along Oregon's coast. It's being called "very, very scary" by an invasive species specialist and can smother shellfish beds and coat boat hulls, docks and water intakes, The Oregonian reports. It's part cauliflower, part dinosaur, from the looks of things. The organism's scientific name is Didemnum vexillum. It's also known as the "sea squirt," and is on the list of the 100 worst invasives to keep out of Oregon, the paper says. Sam Chan, chairman of the Oregon Invasive Species Council calls the organism a "very, very scary one for us."

The invasive has been found in Winchester Bay by divers from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation and in Coos Bay by University of Oregon scientist Richard Emlet.

An eradication/control plan is already being developed for Oregon, possibly involving vacuuming up the invasives or using vinegar or bleach. The Japanese jelly has evaded control efforts in Canada and Puget Sound, according to Chan. It's also been found in other parts of the world including New Zealand (pictured at the top).

Behold a U.S. Geological Survey video of the stuff hanging from a stryofoam float in Massachusetts in 2004.

Scientists aren't sure how the squirt made it to Oregon, according to The News-Review in Douglas County.

How old is the sea squirt? The species dates back at least 500-600 million years, according to info from the Australian government. They belong to the same phylum as humans. They're also hermaphrodites, with both male and female sexual organs, and can produce sexually and asexually.

Thanks to invasive guru John Peter Thompson for this tip.

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Tags: Fishing | Japan | Oregon | Tourism | United States

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