Courtesy Seaside Aquarium
The Seaside Aquarium reported Sunday the arrival of a familiar visitor: Pyrosome atlanticum, a pelagic colonial tunicate.
The sea creature, usually found in temperate waters, has been washing ashore on Oregon’s beaches. This colony of animals moves through the water column by the means of cilia. Pyrosomes filter plankton out of the water for food and are known for bright displays of bioluminescence.
Fishermen compare them to pickles, gummy bears and sea cucumbers.
Their scientific name is derived from the Greek words pyro meaning “fire” and soma meaning “body.” It’s one of the few pyrosomes that make it to the west coast of the U.S., much less Oregon’s waters. The ones that have been washing up on the North Coast seem to be a little longer than the average hand, but this species of pyrosome can be as long as 24 inches. Largely colorless once stranded on shore, they can show up as pink, grayish or purple-green.
The presence of the pyrosomes follows wide reports of other temperate-water sea animals found on local beaches, among them Vellela vellela, also known as “by-the-wind sailors,” and red-eyed medusas, a type of jellyfish.