If you have a group of cows, you don’t call
This looks like a jellyfish, right? It’s got the bulbous “head,” gelatinous appearance, and flowing tentacles. It will also sting you if you come into contact with it in the wrong spot.
Image from The Telegraph
Take a closer look. Okay, you won’t be able to detect this, but this creature, a Portuguese man of war, is actually made up of a number of different, individual creatures known as zooids. This one organism is actually a colony made up of many animals, each of which performs its own special task to keep the sum total alive.
Image (and below) from Plankton Chronicles
Also resembling a plastic bag (when washed up on the beach), this creature is called a siphonophore. Part of the phylum Cnidaria, such creatures are overflowing with unique characteristics…
1. The individual animals that make up a siphonophore colony all come from the same embryo.
That’s right—they’re all separate animals, but they all have the same genetic material.
2. They grow by budding.
One zooid buds directly from another, adding to the siphonore’s mass.
3. Each zooid cannot live without the others.
In that sense, it’s like a siphonophore is only just one animal, as each zooid performs a highly specialized function that the others rely on.
4. They eat small fish.
And shrimp—they can lure prey in with the following special property…
5. They’re bioluminescent.
They also know how to show it off, moving their glowing, stinging cells in a way that makes them twinkle in the ocean’s depths.
6. They’re among the first ocean-dwelling creatures observed to glow red.
Meanwhile, most bioluminescent sea creatures glow the usual blue or green.
7. They’re some of the longest animals on earth.
At up to 40 meters, some exceed the length of the average blue whale.