Entire ecosystems rely on the food chain working properly. Due to a number of different factors, however, it’s not always as simple as “big fish eats the little fish!”
If one species becomes too populous or starts dying out rapidly, that could cause a ripple effect on the whole ecosystem. Similarly, if a non-native species gets introduced to the environment, it can destroy the natural food chain that had already been established. It’s all a delicate balance.
With that in mind, there is one unusual species from the tropics that has started to appear as far north as Canada. They may seem harmless now, but sooner or later, they might just be devastating…
These strange tropical creatures have been swarming the Eastern Pacific coast of Canada. “We were kind of scared of them at first,” said Dobie Lyons, a Canadian fisherman. “Afraid to touch them.”
The tube-shaped, pinkish, and bumpy organisms actually originated in tropical waters, where they can grow to over 30 feet long. They’re only about two feet in Canada’s chilly waters, though. So, what are they—and what on Earth do they want?
Ocean Networks / Twitter
They’re called pyrosomes, or “sea pickles,” and they’re spreading fast. A central Oregon-based team was net-fishing for just five minutes when they caught roughly 60,000 of them! “It’s kind of crazy,” said zooplankton taxonomist Moira Galbraith in an interview. “It’s a little bit over the top.”
Due to their illuminated bodies, the pyrosomes have also been called “fire bodies.” At this point, though, they’re still mostly harmless. “Right now, these are only visitors,” continued Moira, who believed that the creatures were forced to drift up north due to the unusually warm waters caused by climate change.
Despite their relatively small size, the strange presence of the pyrosomes around Canada can present a major problem for other creatures in the same habitat. In fact, there’s a chance that they might just decimate the existing food chain.
Paul Macoun / Twitter
Even more threatening for the fate of native local wildlife, the pyrosomes are able to reproduce sexually and asexually. They also compete with mollusks, crabs, and shrimp for the zooplankton that they like to munch on.
FSologists Alaska / Twitter
If the presence of pyrosomes causes the deaths of the region’s native crustaceans, that’s bad news for the whales and salmon who rely on those critters for food. In other words, the pyrosomes can quite literally ruin the whole food chain just by showing up!
Local fishermen are understandably concerned, too. If they hope to catch any cod or salmon, they’re likely going to be hauling in a bunch of those peculiar tubes along the way. Could anyone really blame them for being worried?
Ed Joyce / Twitter
Dobie even found pyrosomes in a black cod’s stomach. Since the black cod feeds on the ocean floor, this is evidence that the pyrosomes are able to survive in just about any depth. Despite accidentally catching several dozen pyrosomes, Dobie’s not afraid of them so much as he is annoyed.
All things being considered, these creatures aren’t particularly dangerous… at least up close. In fact, they flatten out into blob-like shapes after being touched or left out of the water for too long. Still, scientists hope they can figure out a way to prevent them from spreading and causing an environmental disaster!
There’s no question that these are some incredible, if not bizarre, creatures, but hopefully they don’t cause too much damage to the native populations of fish and other sea creatures in the area!
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