It’s an organism that seems to fit more in the confines of outer space, rather than in the living ocean here on Earth. But it’s in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean that the sea gooseberry (Pleurobrachia bachei) lives, glittering as it glides and twirls in the open water.
The sea gooseberry is a comb jelly (ctenophore), and some ctenophores produce their own light (bioluminescence) through chemical reactions that take place within their bodies. But NOT the sea gooseberry.
The glittering display you see in the video below is actually created by light reflecting and refracting off tiny rows of combs (called ctenes). These ctenes move in a wave-like motion, so when the light hits them we see a pulsating glow.
We see the sea gooseberry’s pharynx through its translucent skin – it’s the central tube that takes up roughly two-thirds of its body. The pharynx, basically equivalent to the throat in humans, is used for digestion in the sea gooseberry.
Looking at its alien-like body, it’s hard to believe that this sea gooseberry is just another animal that has the same day-to-day challenges as other animals: finding food, avoiding predators and making babies. Although it doesn’t look like many animals we know, it does have a mouth that connects to the pharynx and an aboral end (that’s the “bum,” to the non-technical folks).
This predator stretches out and drags its long, hairy tentacles through the water like a net, snagging a microscopic animal called zooplankton. But how does it bring the food it catches into its mouth?
For that, it has a special technique. Watch the video to see it roll in such a way that its two tentacles are strategically draped over its mouth, feeding the sea gooseberry so it can dazzle on this planet for another day.