While researching previously unmapped regions of the Channel Islands off the California coast, the research vessel Nautilus came across an unusual purple mass peeking out of a coral crevice. As the scientists zoomed in on the beautiful creature, they began wondering aloud what it could possibly be. After guesses of everything from a species of plankton to a colorful egg sack, the team decided to use their deep sea rover's vacuum tube to grab the mystery species and bring it to the surface.
"This unidentified purple orb stumped our scientists onboard," Nautilus posted to its website. "After sampling, it began to unfold to reveal two distinct lobes. This could possibly be a new species of nudibranch."
Nudibranchs are a group of soft-shelled mollusk comprised of some 2,300 species and noted for their varied and striking colors. They can be found at nearly all depths and feature chemical defenses that make their bodies both distasteful to predators and, in the case of the acid-secreting variety, painful.
According to the research team, it will likely be many years before the orb is identified as either a new species of nudibranch or something else altogether.