A strange golden orb found at the bottom of the ocean has scientists puzzled as they try to identify the object.
The blob was discovered attached to a rock about 3km below the surface of the ocean during a research expedition in the Gulf of Alaska.
Scientists have deduced that the 10cm object is “biological in origin”.
They are now trying to find out if the object is associated with a known species, a new species or even an “unknown life stage” of an existing one.
It was found during an expedition conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a scientific and regulatory agency within the US Department of Commerce, during a mission to learn more about relatively unknown deep water off the shores of Alaska.
“While we were able to collect the golden orb and bring it on to the ship, we still are not able to identify it beyond the fact that it is biological in origin,” said expedition co-ordinator Sam Candio.
“While somewhat humbling to be stumped by this finding, it serves as a reminder of how little we know about our own planet and how much is left to learn and appreciate about our ocean.”
Before bringing the golden object to the surface, scientists thought a small hole at the base of the golden dome could be an egg case, but a closer look only served to baffle them further.
“We likely won't learn more until we are able to get it into a laboratory setting where we can continue to pull from the collective expertise of the scientific community with more sophisticated tools than we are able to maintain on the ship,” Mr Candio said.
The NOAA team now plans to map the region and learn more about creatures – both known and unknown – that inhabit the area.
“New species have the potential to reveal new sources for medical therapies and vaccines, food, energy, and other societal benefits and knowledge,” said Mr Candio.
“Collectively, the data and information gathered during this expedition will help us close gaps in our understanding of this part of the planet, so we can better manage and protect it.”
The Seascape Alaska 5 expedition continues until September 16.