Time and again, the ocean surprises. The following animal was sighted just weeks ago by NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer (which I toured in Pearl Harbor last January) in the waters around American Samoa.
I never imagined that the ghoulishly entertaining Venus flytrap had a deep-sea doppelganger. This animal is a Venus flytrap anemone, a relative of jellyfish in the phylum Cnidaria. Within that phylum, it’s in the Class Anthozoa along with the corals, its relatives. This one is particularly striking owing to its pleasing perch atop a dead Iridogorgia coral. And it functions pretty much like the terrestrial Venus flytrap, only its divinely-inspired name is even more apt.
Yet could you believe that the following magnificent animal, filmed just two days earlier than the flytrap anemone on Leoso Seamount, is a cnidarian too?
It is a solitary hydroid -- a very large polyp, the sedentary stage of the cnidarian life cycle -- in the class Hydrozoa along with creatures like the Portuguese man o’war, those slinky filter-feeders called siphonophores, and the freshwater Hydra, once the subject of many an introductory biology class. I have never seen anything quite like it, and it is beautiful.
Both animals were captured by the ROV on Okeanos Explorer during its last expedition to American Samoa. Currently, the ship is exploring remote marine protected areas in the Pacific north of Samoa. Watch its expeditions live here! You never know what you might be among the first humans to ever see.