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Pyrosomes are the Borg of the Oceans

Deep in the oceans of the southern hemisphere exist 60-foot long tubular creatures that undulate through the water. They’re called pyrosomes, and they’re basically the ocean’s Borg.

A pyrosome is actually a colony of zooids, a kind of marine invertebrates only about half an inch long. It’s how these individual organisms Voltron into a giant pyrosome that is both fascinating and creepy.

Think of the Borg, an alien race of cyborg drones bent on assimilating other species into its hive-mind with the goal “achieving perfection.” A pyrosome is like the Borg if you took out the malicious intent and added cloning. One pyrosome isn’t made of hundreds of thousands of individual organisms latching onto or binding together. One pyrosome is actually a long collection of clones, and each clone is capable of cloning itself again to add more mass to the colony. And while the Borg connects through a hive-mind, the clones that make up the pyrosome colony actually share body tissues.

This means the colony doesn’t live in a menacing spaceship, it is the ship.


A pyrosome colony is shaped like a giant tube, closed to a point on one end (this is the front end) and open on the other end (the back end), sometimes with a tail poking out. The walls of this tube are the colony — the individuals (clones) are embedded in a gelatinous material. Their mouths face outwards from the tube, giving them easy access to take in water. They pass that water through their “stomachs” to filter out anything edible, namely plankton, then squirt the filtered water out their other side into the space within the tube. They are nature’s oddest-looking filter feeders.

This action of sucking in and spitting out water not only helps the colony keep its shape, it’s how the colony moves. You can think about it like a pulsing jet. A jet generates propulsive force by directing the power of an explosion in the opposite direction of motion. Now replace the explosion with water. If a single organism takes in water and spits it out, the force of that spitting will move the organism forward in fits and starts; it will only move when it’s spitting water. But the pyrosome’s impressive population means members are always taking in and spitting out water. This azure tube is constantly moving, albeit extremely slowly.

So while they look completely terrifying, pyrosomes are innocuous and delicate; a gentle wave carries enough force to tear one apart. They’re also exceedingly rare, earning the nickname of unicorns of the sea. And, thankfully, they’re also highly unlikely to try and assimilate you into their colony should you find yourself swimming too close to one.

IMAGE: Mr. Roger Fenwick

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  1. Brett says:

    Articles like this may be considered informative if they didn’t have images of people harming the creatures of the sea. I think you guys need to screen your content

  2. nick says:

    the ocean is disgusting… its just one big toilet… for all we know a whale may have crapped that out… dont touch it , let alone rub your crotch on it…

  3. universal jester says:

    They sound more like replicators from Stargate if they “are the ship”

  4. DrClown says:

    Shai hulud

  5. I don’t know what is creepier,  the way that one chain with all the mouths looked or the cheerfully upbeat music to lull you into a false sense of security around those mouths.

  6. dlfluegge says:

    So you tell us how delicate they are while also posting a picture of some jackass acting like he’s riding it? 

  7. So, in other words, a pyrosome colony is like the Borg, only totally different. 

  8. Leah Lefler says:

    Dude, narwhals are the unicorns of the sea…

  9. what the Hell does “these individual organisms Voltron into a giant pyrosome” mean?????????

  10. Randy says:

    I like your use of Voltron, that brought me back a ways. I was thinking these creatures are towards using your description. Replicators is what I was thinking

  11. Daveo says:

    OMFG. You used “voltron” as a verb. I love you.

  12. If these colonies are so rare and delicate why does the fellow in the headline photo appear to be riding one??

  13. DSaputo says:

    If they are so rare and delicate why does they fellow in the headline photo appear to be riding one?

  14. KevieD says:

    So in other words, they’re not much like the Borg at all. 

  15. KevieC says:

    The nickname “unicorn of the sea” already belongs to the narwhal.

  16. Is it just me, or does it look like a giant condom?

    And the author obviously does not know her Star Trek. The borg are like locust, consuming everything in their path without regard to the rest of the world.

    Those creatures don’t even operate in a similar fashion as the Borg.

    • Ryan says:

      Read the whole article. It’s so painfully obvious you haven’t done that yet.

    • Imba says:

      maybe if you read the rest of the article you would see that their destructive habits were not what she was making the comparison about?

    • j. says:

      the author knows more about REAL space than you ever knew about TV space.

    • William says:

      They are not like locusts, they are forced collectionists.  They integrate any compatible life form into their system, believing it is bringing them up to a more effeceint standard.  Towards the end of ST series they became less interested in bringing people up than they focusing on the perfection of their own collective (which is why they started ignoring primitive races, etc.)  Compare Next Gen Borg with Voyager and Enterprise and you notice an evolution.

  17. Hey lookie at that giant worm thing! Let’s go touch it!….famous last words.

  18. Arthur Goetz says:

    It’s an

  19. Wolf-man says:

    After reading that explanation, I’m just like: “So…they’re nothing like the Borg.” 

  20. To be fair, the Borg dosn’t have malicious intent.  They just don’t care about the opinion of their assimilatees towards the assimilation.  Assimilation is for the good of the hive.

  21. if a wave can tear it apart, why these guys clowning with it?

  22. Tim says:

    I wouldn’t say Borg of the oceans…maybe the “Human Centipede” of the Oceans