Researchers on the marine exploration vessel Nautilus came across something rather remarkable on the ocean floor this week. Working off the coast of California in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the crew were surprised to see a mysterious glowing purple orb on their live feed and used a robotic attachment referred to as "the slurp" to sample the mysterious creature for study.
The E/V Nautilus is one of two ships in the world dedicated to exploration of the oceans. It deploys remotely-operated vehicles to explore the murky depths and collect samples at areas of interest. The Nautilus' 2016 mission has it exploring off the Pacific Coast of North America between the waters offshore of southern British Columbia and southern California. Its crew was mapping the sea floor of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Southern California when it came across the odd blob.
"This unidentified purple orb stumped our scientists onboard," says the Nautilus team. "After sampling, it began to unfold to reveal two distinct lobes. After consulting with onshore scientists, the team thinks it may be a pleurobranch, a close relation to the nudibranch. Currently none of the known species of California deep-sea pleurobranchs are purple, so this could be a new discovery."
Pleurobranches are related to sea slugs and the Nautilus team is working with scientists at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology to try and identify whether that's what the creature is. If it does turn out to be a new species, the team notes that the process of confirming its new status could take years.
Check out the moment the discovery happened on the live video feed from the Nautilus below.