Australia is known for being the home to some of the world's weirdest and most dangerous animals on the planet. With an estimated 300,000 creatures native to the continent, there's no shortage of odd-looking and peculiar critters to come across — and those are just the homegrown ones.
One strange looking sea creature, that sports incredible, embroidery-like patterns all over its skin, has continued to baffle Aussies, showing up in a number coastal spots all over the country.
Creatures appear all over the coast
In the last 24 hours alone, three residents from various coastal locations have snapped pictures of the strange-looking "aliens" along our shorelines, all pleading on social media for someone to identify the creature. With a gooey, soft exterior and intricate orange-brown patterns all over it's body, many have been left clueless over the animal's identity.
"Found at Semaphore today (in Adelaide), can anyone ID please? one person said beside a picture of the creature. "Anyone know what the heck this thing is? Found it washed up on northern beaches in Sydney, appeared somewhat alive and there was a few of them about the size of a frisbee," another questioned.
"Can anyone identify this thing washed up on a beach in South Queensland? a third asked.
Marine experts weigh in
While many in the comments joked that the sea "thing" genuinely resembled an intergalactic intruder, according to the Australian Museum, they are indeed all types of ascidians, also known as "sea squirts" or "tunicates".
Describing the bizarre yet striking looking animal, one marine ecologist said they are somewhere between "invertebrates and vertebrates".
"Each of those little yellow dots is an individual animal called a zooid, which are all genetically identical in the colony, the expert said on Reddit.
"What is super interesting about ascidians (sea squirts, tunicates etc) is that they develop a notochord in larval stages and then lose the notochord later in life.
"So while they are a marine invertebrate, they are placed in the phylum 'Chordata' and are an evolutionary boundary between invertebrates and vertebrates. They are, in evolutionary terms, your very distant, weird cousins that no one wanted at Christmas lunch."
Ascidians tend to be found in shallow waters and rocky areas along Australia's east and southeast.
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