Sometimes we encounter lovely transparent glinting elements washed up on the shore. At times these sparkling forms will be a fabulous creature known as a Salp.
Salps are semi-transparent, barrel-shaped, gelatinous-type creatures. Whilst they possibly look a bit like jellies, salps are actually free-floating tunicates.
They live in the open ocean and propel themselves along by contracting their bands of muscles.
The contractions cause water to pump through their bodies, which they strain, to feed on phytoplankton.
If you look very closely, you can see the contractions with the naked eye.
They can end up washed onto our shore line, and when they do, the individuals tend to be around 1 cm in size. However, if you are fortunate to be out surfing behind the sets, like my partner, it is there that you will see the salps connected in long lines.
These lines are the result of their method of reproduction; they are asexual and the parent produces a chain, of tens to hundreds, of individuals.
Salps are important for their own life, for the fish that eat them, and also for the environment. During their digestive process, they transport tons of carbon from the ocean surface to the deep sea, and keep it from re-entering the atmosphere. Pretty cool!
Their numbers are most abundant in the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica, but are also found in temperate and equatorial seas.
– With Rebecca Hosking @ FERMS