A "spaghetti monster" was seen living deep beneath the waves of the ocean, featuring a myriad of thin appendages resembling cooked pasta. A new video records the rarely seen creature in its natural home.
Bathyphysa conifer was discovered swimming in the waters near Angola by a petroleum development team managed by British Petroleum (BP). The workers, utilizing a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), recorded video of the strange animal as it went about its life 4,000 feet beneath the surface of the water.
Unable to identify the strange life form, the petroleum workers jokingly named the creature after the deity recognized by adherents of Pastafarianism, a religion that worships the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
This strange real-life creature is not even a single organism but a collection of various beings, a form of life known as a siphonophore. These are formed from vast numbers of multicellular beings known as zooids, which live in conjunction with others of their species. Each of these networks of organisms begins life from just a single fertilized egg. As the network begins to grow, each of the zooids begins to differentiate into different roles. While some take on the job of digesting nutrients, for instance, others carry out reproduction as their sole contribution to the larger collection.
Researchers at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, England recognized the animal as a member of the suborder known as Cystonectae. These lifeforms are marked by two main body parts, connected by a long stem. Individual members of the B. conifer species have been recorded in the past, but the creature is rarely seen in its natural habitat.
"Up top, there is a pneumatophore, a gas-filled 'float' that looks kind of like a big bubble (that's the bulbous-looking thing sticking out from the top part of the spaghetti monster). Farther down the stem is a siphosome, where a bunch of zooids are hard at work catching and eating food, reproducing, and doing all the other things the animal needs to do to survive," Elizabeth Palermo wrote for Live Science.
The "tentacles" of this rarely seen species are actually feeding polyps known as gastrozooids, designed to capture food as it floats through the water.
Most other Cystonects also possess a nectosome, a collection of zooids that work to allow the creature to move through the water. This species is also marked by its distinctive ptera, or side wings. This species lacks the side branches seen on the wings of other species of the creatures.
As ROVs become more common, teams are likely to find more examples of rarely seen creatures like this one.
Video of the bizarre deep-sea creature is available on the Serpent Project YouTube channel.