Earth’s oceans are full of mysteries, but few are as unsettling as a newly discovered “golden egg” found on the seafloor off the coast of Alaska.
A photo of the mysterious shiny object was posted to X (formerly Twitter) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and it has caused quite a stir among researchers and X users alike.
Its origins are unknown, but experts have suggested that the golden object may be some sort of egg casing or perhaps marine sponge remains. The NOAA has said the object is delicate to the touch, much like skin tissue.
According to the Miami Herald, during the live feed of its discovery, one researcher ominously said, “Something tried to get in… or to get out.”
A research team from NOAA first found the strange golden object on Aug. 30 at a depth of roughly two miles in “the deep abyssal depths of the Gulf of Alaska,” per the Miami Herald.
While the team made joking speculations about the object’s origins during the live feed, their scientific curiosity eventually led to the decision to gather a sample of the golden orb to examine its DNA.
“I just hope when we poke it, something doesn’t decide to come out,” one scientist said. “It’s like the beginning of a horror movie.”
NOAAThe robotic arm used to “suction” up the “egg.”
The team used a remote-operated robotic arm to “tickle” the egg, which is when they learned it was soft to the touch. Thankfully, nothing freaky or weird popped out, so the team “suctioned” the orb up a tube for closer examination.
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Still, once they had it in hand, they couldn’t make sense of what they were looking at. Some team members suggested the golden orb may be an egg of some sort; others speculated that it might be the remains of a sea sponge.
“When our collective knowledge can’t identify it, it’s something weird,” one team member said. “What kind of an animal would make an egg casing like that?”
Experts across the world were equally baffled by the strange orb. University of Plymouth deep-sea ecology professor Kerry Howell told the Daily Mail, “In my 20 years exploring the deep sea I have not seen anything like that.”
Howell agreed with the NOAA team’s early assumptions about the orb, suggesting that the opening in it could very well have been where something hatched or, in the case of a sea sponge, breathed in and out.
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“There are many, many undiscovered species in the deep sea, so this could be related to a new species quite easily,” she said.
NOAAA NOAA undersea exploration vehicle.
University of Edinburgh professor Murray Roberts also said he believes the object could be an egg casing.
“Several species, including vulnerable deep-sea fish like sharks and rays, lay their egg cases on seamounts or in cold-water coral habitats,” he said. “Hence the hole — something hatched out and swam off.”
The discovery comes as part of NOAA’s ongoing Seascape Alaska 5 expedition, which goes until Sept. 16. During this period, the agency said its team will work to “fill gaps in our understanding of the region by conducting focused mapping and remotely operated vehicle operations in waters deeper than 200 meters (656 feet).”
Throughout the expedition, the team is exploring deep-sea coral and sponge habitats alongside other underwater geological features like mud volcanoes at depths ranging from 656 feet to 19,685 feet.
After reading about this odd new discovery, read about seven other sea creatures that look like something from a horror movie. Or, read about another location on the seafloor, Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the ocean.