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Scientists Have Found a Weird Purple Orb on the California Seafloor

From scampering octopuses to disco clams, marine biologists have gotten pretty good at parsing all the absurdity the ocean has to offer. Which is why we’re so delighted by the above video from the Nautilus Exploration Program, in which seasoned scientists greet the sight of a luminous purple blob with “What is that?!” 

The Ocean Exploration Trust’s Nautilus research vessel has just wrapped up a trip to California’s Channel Islands, an area commonly known as the Galapagos of the North for its remote location and ecological richness. The islands are part of a national marine sanctuary, yet very little is known about the topography of the surrounding seafloor, how the region is weathering climate change, or the creatures who live there. 

Case in point: the purple thing. The vessel’s cameras zoomed in on the unidentified object, which seemed to be made of two distinct pieces. But even at close range, the blob was no more willing to reveal its secrets. The researchers aboard began to throw out guesses: “It looks like an egg sac of some sort.” “I reckon its some kind of cnidarian?” “It looks like a disco ball.” “I’m stumped. I couldn’t even hazard a guess.” 

While there was some dramatic tension when it seemed that a curious crab might snatch the mystery orb before the team could collect it with a vacuum tube on a robotic arm, in the end they successfully hoovered it up. The crew turned the gummy candy–looking thing over to experts at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. At the moment, their best guess is that it’s a type of knobbly, globular sea slug called a pleurobranch, but they’re still far from certain. 

[h/t Smithsonian]

Header image from YouTube // EVNautilus

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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