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Mysterious purple orb discovered on the sea floor

It’s often said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean floor. It’s easy to believe that when you get a look at this bizarre purple sphere that was recently discovered by researchers from the Nautilus Live project. No one had a clue what it was at first, and they’re still not entirely certain.

The purple blob was discovered by Nautilus Live while exploring the sea floor around the Channel Islands off the coast of California. This is part of an ongoing project to catalog life in the deep ocean called Nautilus Live. It’s operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust under the direction of famous explorer Dr. Robert Ballard. He’s known for discovering the wrecks of the Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck.

The “Live” part of Nautilus Live is the coolest part. The researchers use a remotely operated submersible called Hercules for most observations, and it’s tethered to the surface via a fiber optic cable. Video is sent back up and broadcast in nearly real time. It helps bring the public into the scientific process, which is part of the Ocean Exploration Trust’s mission.

As for this purple blob, the team scooped it up for further analysis. While watching the video, researchers speculated that it might be a type of cnidarian (jellies) or possibly an egg sack. Upon examination, the orb unfolded to reveal two distinct lobes. No tendrils like you’d expect from a jelly were visible.

Nautilus Live is working with the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology to figure out exactly what it is, but the current thinking is it’s a type of pleurobranch — a sea slug. A very unusual one. It might take months or years to determine if this particular species has ever been observed before. So, maybe this video depicts the discovery of a new species. Hopefully it wasn’t the last of its kind.

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