Some compared it to a spider egg sac and a disco ball, but it could actually be a new species.
Scientists aboard the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus were exploring the Arguello Canyon off the Channel Islands in California when they spotted a small purple blob on the ocean floor. The blob was unlike anything that the researchers had ever seen before, and they can be heard on video attempting to identify it. One scientist admits, "I’m stumped. I have no idea [what it is]. I couldn’t even hazard a guess to phyla." Another jokingly calls it “Blobus purplus” as others compare it to a spider egg sac and a disco ball.
The team captured the blob with a hose, bringing it onboard so that they could study it. “After sampling, it began to unfold to reveal two distinct lobes,” the team wrote on their website. They think that it is likely a pleurobranch, a relative of the nudibranch. Nudibranchs are part of the sea slug family, and many are beautifully colored, retaining the coloring of the food that they eat. Since no known species of deep-sea pleurobranchs in California are purple, the scientists believe that the mysterious blob may in fact be a new species.
E/V Nautilus is led by Robert Ballard, a deep-sea explorer best known for discovering the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Much of the water surrounding the Channel Islands is still unmapped, so more discoveries are sure to come soon.
Watch the footage of the scientists encountering the purple blob below.