‘Ghost fish’ with X-rated name ‘is vacuum cleaner of the oceans’

A "ghost fish" that has a transparent body has been identified as a creature with an X-rated name, revealed experts.

The see-through creature named Thetys vagina which scientists say is a closer relation to humans than we think.

Diver Andy Cracchiolo said he discovered the "unique" creature whilst swimming in California.

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He took a breathtaking recording of the Thetys off the coast of Topanga Beach near Los Angeles.

In the video, the animal has a mouth and something like a tail fin, yet its transparent body is almost entirely empty, save for an odd snail-like mass towards the rear.

Following the release of the clip, scientists identified the rudely-named creature and said it is known as the vacuum cleaner of the oceans.

Mr Cracchiolo said: “I was snorkelling, looking for trash and treasures, and taking photographs, and I thought it was a plastic bag.

“It looked like a clear, white plastic bag with something that looked like a brown sea snail inside.”

He added: “I thought it might be something unique, since I often dive this site and hadn't seen something like it before.”

Wondering if it was a jellyfish of some sort, Andy shared his footage online.

He’s now discovered that what he saw was a type of salp – a species often mistaken for jellyfish, but which is taxonomically closer to humans.

Moira Decima, an assistant professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, tentatively identified the species as Thetys vagina.

The name is thought to have its origins in the early 1800s, with the word vagina used for its original Latin meaning of sheath or scabbard – apparently inspired by the animal’s appearance.

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Professor Decima said: “They are filter feeders, so they eat phytoplankton, microzooplankton and can even eat bacteria due to the fine spacing of their mesh.

“Their claim to fame is their role in the carbon cycle – they are able to eat so much because they combine swimming with feeding.

“Thus they can strain very large volumes of water and remove lots of particles. That's why we can refer to them as the ‘ocean vacuum cleaner’.

“In turn, they produce large faecal pellets that can sink rapidly to the bottom.”

The snail-like innards process its food, she added.

“The red nucleus you see in the image includes the gut and digestive organs,” she said.

Professor Iain Suthers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, said the animal was a closer relation to humans than many realise.

He said: “They are in the same phylum – the major zoological division of life – as our own.

“My students are always humbled by that.”

And in the future, they may end up on your dinner plate.

“They are virtually unlimited by food, but predators such as fish, birds etc love to eat them,” he said.

“They are quite nutritious we’ve found. Maybe humans will eat them one day.”

Salps’ lifespans vary from a week to several months, depending on the species and its environment.

They drift with the ocean, but also have a modest means of jet propulsion, using contracting bands of muscles that ring their bodies to draw water in at one end and push it out at the other.

And despite the lewd name of this species, they reproduce asexually.

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