It’s a Salp

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Thetys vagina, a pelagic tunicate

I observed this unusual organism during a December, 2012 King Tide when saw several and took this photo. Determining what they were, exactly, wasn’t easy. I contacted Cynthia D. Trowbridge at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and she kindly identified my mystery creature as the salp, Thetys vagina. If you want to know more about them you can check out the Thetys account at The JelliesZone.

In the weeks since Cynthia told me what I had discovered, I have seen several TV news, radio and newspaper accounts concerning salps washing up on beaches this winter. I have learned that Thetys vagina doesn’t wash up often, and I wasn’t the only one who had a tough time identifying them correctly.

Note: I updated the photos and lightly edited the text on October 22, 2017. Over the years since I made this post I have seen a few more Thetys and some fragments in the drift line, but never as many fresh specimens as on December 12, 2012.