Scientists just discovered the longest animal on Earth – and hardly anyone has ever heard of it

Louis Staples
Sunday 19 April 2020 16:00
Viral
(SCHMIDT OCEAN INSTITUTE)

What’s the longest animal on this planet we call Earth? A snake? A blue whale?

Nope, guess again (you won’t get it).

Scientists think they’ve discovered the longest animal on the planet off the coast of Western Australia.

It’s a stinging, string-like animal known as a siphonophore.

This ocean giant was discovered during a month-long scientific mission exploring submarine canyons near Australia’s Ningaloo reef.

According to estimates, the siphonophore’s outer ring to be about 150 feet long. To put it in context, that’s that’s 50 feet longer than a blue whale, although the full length of the species is still unknown.

Logan Mock-Bunting, a spokesperson for the Schmidt Ocean Institute, said:

The entire creature is much, much longer. The crew is estimating it to be more than 120 meters in total length—possibly over 390 feet long.

To be absolutely clear, siphonophores might not technically be one animal. They’re more of a colony of genetically identical pieces, sort of like connected ants if they were genetically identical. The connected pieces form a “string-like” shape.

The individual pieces which make up a siphonophore colony are called “zooids”. They can’t survive alone, which is pretty cute, because together, they become something far more magnificent.

The zooids are not all the same, despite sharing the same DNA. And each zooid has a specific role in the colony: some just swim, others just eat and some just sting. They’re sort of like one, big, genetically identical family.

Bit by bit, these remarkable zooids make up what may be the longest animal on our planet. Remarkable.

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