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Gelatinous sea creatures wash up in Washington

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm •  Published: February 22, 2013
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"We were joking about it, trying to figure out what it was," he said Thursday. It looked like a jellyfish "about the size of a guy's hand. The head is hard, and it has a couple of tentacles hanging off."

Brodeur identified a photo of Miller's catch as a Thetys salp.

"This is one of the most abundant salps we catch so I am not sure it's all that unusual to get them in a crab pot," Brodeur said.

Alan Rammer is an environmental education specialist retired from the state Fish and Wildlife Department but still active with the National Marine Educators Association, for which he is marine science teacher of the year. The Central Park resident also serves as the Grays Harbor County representative on the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary advisory council. So when coastal residents started finding salps this winter they sent Rammer photos.

"I was stumped when I got the first pictures," he said Wednesday. "I had no clue."

He learned about them and had three in his freezer last week to show a KING-TV crew.

A salp is a pelagic tunicate. That means it lives in the open ocean and has a tube-like body that pumps water for locomotion and to filter the plankton on which it feeds. Despite its translucent appearance it's not closely related to jellyfish. It's a chordate, which means it has a spinal cord and is related to vertebrates. Salps can swim singly or in rope-like colonies. They have the ability to reproduce rapidly and can bloom when the plankton supply is rich.

Rammer believes their appearance is a sign of climate change in their environment.

"If food becomes plush we could go nuts here with any animal," he said.