BP captured video footage of the real spaghetti monster, right off the coast of Angola. Only this spaghetti monster isn’t flying, it’s a critter.
The funny looking yet fascinating creature was videotaped at approximately 4,000 feet under the sea. Luckily, the images showcasing the deep-sea spaghetti monster went beyond just a viral internet hit thanks to the SERPENT Project.
The SERPENT Project stands for the Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership Using Existing Industrial Technology and is developed as a valuable research tool between the National Oceanography Centre and industry representatives.
As such, the BP footage of the deep-sea spaghetti bowl-like creature helped researchers with the National Oceanography Center or Southampton, England to identify the strange creature as a rarely seen Bathyphysa conifer.
Batyphysa conifer is part of a larger family of marine creatures, dubbed siphonophores. Thus, closely related to jellyfish and corals, the Bathyphysa conifer shares a few characteristics with its cousins, yet is by far the most interesting. Perhaps also because it is a rare, unusual sight and very little information is held on the species.
According to Casey Dunn, who is an associate professor of evolutionary biology and ecology with the Brown University of Rhode Island, our deep-sea spaghetti monster is not one unitary creature. It is in fact a colonial animal.
What makes it a colonial animal? For once, Bathyphysa conifer is a collection of multicellular organism – zooids. Secondly, each of this zooids has its own independent function, albeit living in a community with the rest.
Catriona Munro, also with Brown University explained that the deep-sea spaghetti monster belongs to a suborder of the siphonophore class, titled cystonects, usually comprising two to three parts of the colonial body.
In the case of Bathyphysa conifer, the upper body part, adorning the main stem is a pneumatophore, or a big-bubble that is filled with gas. Following, the siphosome is the place where all those spaghetti zooids are responsible for catching food, reproducing, eating. The spaghetti arms that we can observe in the footage are also zooids specialized on capturing food.
However, the deep-sea spaghetti monster lacks a nectosome that is present with other cystonects. This part of the colonial body would comprise zooids that need to propel the creature through the deep waters.
Very few Bathyphysa conifer specimens have been recorded or described. As they dwell in the deep sea, it is a rather difficult task to reach them in their habitat. Thankfully, the SERPENT Project brings some of these fascinating creatures to the world.
Photo Credits: csmonitor.com