If you saw a pyrosome, you might not recognize it as an animal. It looks like an inflatable tube, lives in the open ocean and can be as long as 40 feet. When disturbed, it glows brightly with bioluminescence.
The tube is made of tiny animals called zooids. Each one has its own body, but they are all physically joined together as a single colonial organism.
An even stranger fact about pyrosomes is that the zooids that make up a single pyrosome are all clones of one individual. In fact, each zooid is able to replicate itself and thereby increase the zooid population. Every zooid is also physically connected to other zooids, because they all share tissue with each other.
Each zooid sucks in water, filters out plankton to eat, and blows the rest into the inside of the tube. One end is closed, and the other is open. Water flows out the open end, letting the whole colony move by jet propulsion.
It's a glowing tubular jet-propelled clone army. Â The pyrosome is a good example of why we don't need to go to a distant galaxy to find exotic creatures.
- Helm, R. R. The 60 foot long jet powered animal you've probably never heard of. Deep Sea News, August 1, 2013.