The Tiny Clear Blobs Washing up on Beaches Are Even Weirder Than You Think
At various points throughout the spring and summer, Southern beachgoers are treated to the strange experience of finding thousands of small, gelatinous, crystal-clear blobs washed up on the sand. Though they're often referred to as "jellyfish eggs" these weird little creatures are called salps, and they have more in common with people than they do with jellyfish.
Though they resemble jellyfish, "the only thing salps and jellyfish have in common is that both are gelatinous and both float around in the ocean," Larry Madin, executive vice president and director of research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told National Geographic.
Salps aren't poisonous, so as far as blob-like ocean creatures go, they're an absolute breeze.
The appearance of salps on beaches usually corresponds to a phytoplantkton bloom in the sea. As Treehugger explains it, "salps feed on phytoplankton, so when there is an abundance of phytoplankton, there is an abundance of salps."
Simply put, these curious creatures reproduce to match their food source. Their numbers increase until the food source is gone, then they die off and wash up.
Salps, like their relatives the sea pork, are part of a group called tunicates, are considered one of the most evolved of all marine invertebrates. Proud members of the sea squirt family, these amorphous blobs are essentially little water pumps, pumping water in and out of the bodies and extracting nutrients along the way. They also have a kind of primitive backbone, which jellies lack. The black dots you see are their digestive system.
Completely harmless, they exist solely to chow down on microscopic plankton. So, fear not the slimy salp!