Scientists have been searching since 1899 for an elusive creature named Bathochordaeus charon, the second part of its name coming from the mythical ‘ferryman of the dead’. The sea beast is an unusually large transparent filter feeder enveloped in a cloud of mucus.
Charon is a figure in Greek mythology who ferried souls of the dead though the Underworld.
Biologist Carl Chun from Leipzig University in Germany first discovered more than a century ago. Since then there were several possible sightings, but now the elusive sea blob has been confirmed in the waters of Monterey Bay, off the coast of California. Chun’s original specimens of B. charon were lost, making identification more difficult.
Discovered in 1936, Bathochordaeus stygius looks so similar to B. charon that for the past century, scientists have been wondering if they’re actually the same species.
“We had no idea, until we looked more closely at the specimen, that we had actually found B. charon, the species first described over a hundred years ago,” said Rob Sherlock from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).
A remotely operated vehicle captured a live one in Monterey Bay, and confirmed that everything about their specimen was as described by Chun in 1899.
B. charon is a free-floating, tadpole-like creature. The specimen found was a whopping 9 cm long. It feeds by producing a mucus ‘house’ to sit inside, and the mucus catches tiny particles of food like a net as the creature floats through the ocean. Researchers have little idea, however, how these creatures live, breed, and age.
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