Is it a Koosh Ball?

The scientists aboard the E/V Nautilus have been on the cutting edge of seafloor exploration since they started their oceanic expedition back in 2010. They’ve had surprise encounters with sperm whales, and delved into the hydrothermal vents of the Galapagos, but even these sea-life experts were completely baffled by a small purple orb discovered near the Channel Islands, just off the coast of California.

At a loss for what the small, spiny sphere might actually be, The Nautilus team posed some pretty unscientific identifiers:

“Purple blob.”

“Blobus Purpulus.”

“Maybe it’s a spider egg sac.”

After much speculation, and shooing away a hungry looking crab from their find, the team “slurped” up the orb with their underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle). Up close it kind of looks like something you’d get surgically removed after a biopsy.

Photo: E/V Nautilus

Perhaps it’s an alien cast adrift in our planet’s vast oceans—or the horrible, mutated result of the BP oil spill? Only time will tell. Early speculation suggests it could be a pleurobranch, a relative of the sea slug. However, a spokesperson for E/V Nautilus said,“We don’t have a definitive identification yet. We’re waiting on further analysis from on-shore science teams.”

In the meantime, one thing’s for certain: Despite how long humans have been exploring our planet’s oceans, there is still much, much more left to discover.