Drifting throngs of jelly-like, glowing organisms native to tropical seas far from shore have invaded Pacific coastal waters from Southern California to the Gulf of Alaska this year, baffling researchers and frustrating fishing crews. Known as pyrosomes, they are tubular colonies of hundreds or thousands of tiny individual creatures called zooids, enmeshed together in a gelatinous tunic roughly the consistency of gummy bear candy. No relation to jellyfish, they resemble bumpy, opaque pickles in the water, typically a few centimeters or inches long, though some grow 1 or 2 feet (30cm or 60cm) in length. They feed by filtering microscopic algae, or phytoplankton, as they float with the current, and are known to glow in the dark - a bioluminescent characteristic that gives the organism its scientific name -- Pyrosoma, Greek for "fire body." Pyrosomes have rarely if ever been seen along the U.S. West Coast until 2012, when first spotted in California waters. Since then, they have gradua...

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