Sea Pickles

Gotcha at the title, right? I mean, sea pickles are really a thing? They are! And they are not to be confused with sea cucumbers which are echinoderms, related to starfish and sea urchins, that move along the sea floor on rows of tiny feet.

Photo credit – Peter D. Tillman

Sea pickles, on the other hand, are pyrosomes that float freely through open water. Not only that, what we call a sea pickle isn’t just one organism. No, one sea pickle is actually a colony of hundreds to thousands of individual zooids, muti-cellular animals about the size of a grain of rice that each have a heart and a brain. They are filter-feeders that consumer bacteria and small plankton as they move through the ocean. Sea pickles are also bioluminescent!

Words to describe a sea pickle include semi-translucent, tubular, gelatinous, but also rigid and bumpy. These colonies can grow to more than 2 feet long, but most are between 1 and ten inches long. They are also harmless, so you can touch them. But don’t let the name fool you – you don’t want to eat one.