Strange Things from the Deep / by Louisa Ulrich-Verderber


I absolutely love when science is baffled by the results of an experiment, when scientists are proved wrong or humbled, and when scientist don’t know what the heck they’re looking at. It’s this lack of knowledge that is the root of all scientific inquiry, and it sends happy shivers up my spine.

Though mostly people think its phenomenon’s of nature that confuse scientists, a lot of creatures confuse them too.

Only 3% of the deep oceans have ever been explored, and every time a sub sinks down, completely new and mind boggling creatures are discovered.  The most famous are perhaps goblin sharks, Dumbo octopi, and the Humboldt squid, but there are some that don’t even fit in the normal categories of science. 


Take the Siphonophore for instance. This creature is a gelatinous predator, which uses long stinging tentacles hanging under its body to catch prey. But it’s not exactly right to call it a “predator” singular, because Siphonophores appear to be long chain-like colonies of different individuals or “zooid” with different functions. There are zooids that propel the “colony,” zooids that digest food and send the nutrients to others, and some that scientists have no idea what they do. In short there is an individual living creature that preforms each task that a body part would. 


Each zooid buds off from an original fertilized egg, much like in mitosis except an entire creature buds off. The zooids are connected to each other by a long stem, which acts as gas filled float. The individuals are arranged in a very specific pattern, unique to each species. 

Scientists are baffled by this cohabitation, which is different to anything seen anywhere else. I’ve found a couple videos that give really good explanations of Siphonophores and have much better images than I can find, take a look! 

CreatureCast - Siphonophores and Individuality from Casey Dunn on Vimeo.

Personally, I find these creatures amazing. I’d never heard of these creatures until last week and since then I’ve been Googleing them left and right trying to find out more about them. Apart from their pure curiosity factor they have also given me some biomimicry ideas.

  • How can we make our cities and towns more self sustaining? Could there be a district or area devoted to certain necessary functions or needs of a city?
  • There could be the food district, dedicated to high quality production of all the city’s produce.
  • There could be bio digesters in place that would take organic waste material from the produce district and from homes and produce energy.
  • By integrating all the needs of a city within the city it becomes much like the Siphonophore, a complex colony of individuals working for the survival of the whole.