Animal, vegetable, plastic? Help please!

A mysterious, transparent slug-like thing I found on the beach

A mysterious, transparent slug-like thing I found on the beach

Does anyone know what these are?

I found these little ‘creatures’ down at Lyall Bay, Wellington, yesterday. I spotted maybe six or seven amongst the kelp that was washed up on the beach, and they only seemed to be at the west end of the bay, between Maranui Café and the children’s playground.

They’re about 10 centimetres long, a couple of finger-widths wide (very scientific, I know) and translucent. Although they look like jelly, they were firm to poke (which of course I did) and they all appeared dead – or inanimate.

Another of the blighters

Another of the blighters

I did think they were some sort of sea creature, but when I came into work this morning and looked up sea cucumbers and sea slugs, I didn’t see or read about anything that looked like these, and now I’m worried I’ve been ‘animalifying’ plastic packing material!

If anyone out there knows what they actually are (perhaps our good friends at NIWA or Te Papa?), I’d love to hear.

4 comments have been added so far

  1. Comment made by Andrew || October 8th, 2012

    It’s the shell of an animal called a pyrosoma salp (sometimes called a fire salp). They get this name because they’re are bioluminescent and can light up patches of the sea at night. They are hollow and suck water in one end, filter the plankton, and push water out the other and thereby move along.

    Strong southerly winds have pushed a lot of them on-shore.

  2. Comment made by Mels || October 8th, 2012

    Cool - thanks so much, Andrew. So are these the same animals as the ones in the colony in this video here? http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/marine-animals-without-backbones/6/3.

  3. Comment made by aimee || October 9th, 2012

    Hey there. Andrew’s completely correct - they are indeed salps.

    Here’s a great video of salps off the Tasman Peninsula :) http://bit.ly/RLWbdR

  4. Comment made by Heath || October 19th, 2012

    It reminds me of the Jewel Catepillar,
    http://gizmodo.com/jewel-caterpillar/ which turns into a big ginger moth.

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