New Delhi: The universe has bestowed beautiful creations on the only habitable planet in the solar system – the Earth.
Creatures that are rare and those that have barely been spotted roam the world, untouched and unseen by humanity.
Therefore, it feels like a privilege when such, normally elusive, creatures decide to show themselves to give us a glimpse of how beautiful and miraculous nature and its creations are.
Something of this nature has happened because the discovery of an elusive creature that hasn't been conclusively seen since it was first described in 1900, has been confirmed by scientists.
Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute collected the mysterious, blob-like animal by a remotely operated vehicle deep in California's Monterey Bay. The creaure is about three and a half inches long.
The news came from National Geographic who reported that, the animal was surrounded by a "house" of protein and cellulose that was several feet across. A type of larvacean, the creature produces these disposable houses to trap tiny food particles in the water and filter them inward. When the house's filters get clogged, the animal discards it and forms a new one, sometimes in a matter of hours.
Three and a half inches may sound miniscule, but where this animal is concerned, its actually pretty huge.
Its relatives are normally less than half an inch long, yet they play an important role in the ocean by transporting nutrients down into the deep sea (especially as they dispose of their spent houses), NatGeo said.
Furthermore, scientists have now confirmed that the creature is a second sighting of the species Bathochordaeus charon, named for the mythical Greek ferryman who was thought to transport souls of the dead across the River Styx. The first sighting of the animal was described in a 1900 paper and was based on a specimen found in the 1890s.
Scientists, in the past years, have struggled to see such a creature up close questioning its existence. It was, in fact, thought to simply be a variant of another related species.
However, during a dive of the ROV Ventana, researchers spotted one on the screen and guided the submersible to grab the rare, soft creature in a net, which proved to be tricky.
Once they managed to get it to the surface, they realized that it was a perfect match of the 1900 description of the species Bathochordaeus charon.
"It exists!" MBARI researcher Rob Sherlock told his colleague at the time. The findings were documented in a recent paper.
"This is a nice discovery, and the paper says that they have genetic evidence distinguishing this species from a close congener," says Alice Alldredge, a biology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is familiar with the organism but not affiliated with the study.
"It also supports the importance of direct observation in studying the ocean," she adds, NatGeo reported.
— MBARI (@MBARI_News) December 6, 2016