Unknown Phylum. Any suggestions?

Steve O'Shea

TONMO Supporter
Staff member
Nov 19, 2002
The following has been relayed to me by Miss Gwenith Penry, who has very kindly given me permission to post these images online. I am at a complete loss as to what this animal is ... a complete loss!!

Can anyone shed any light on this?

Unknown Sea creature sighting

During the 09.30 dolphin watching cruise on the 27/03/2007 an unidentified animal was spotted.
Company: Ocean Safaris
Vessel: Dolphin 1 (approx 8m)
Crew: Skipper – Steve . Guide: Marlon
12 other crew members including myself and the other 4 volunteers from the Centre for Dolphin Studies.

Visual Description.

Size- 30-40cm long and around 5-10cm thick around anterior end, and 2-5cm thick posterior skirt.
Grey colour on dorsal side of body. Pale ventral. Red/white bands around edges of ‘skirt’ Orange/brown patch on ventral surface behind the ‘vent’.
Skirt – This appears to be a membranous tissue on the posterior end of the body, mostly grey but with banding around the edges. On close inspection of the photographs this looks like a thin layer of ‘skin’ that ‘flaps’ like a ray. The banded area looks like 2 separate appendages that do not join, but the ends meet.

Anterior – very distinctive ‘nose’/ trunk like protrusion which appears to be able to move independently of the rest of the body. Small grooves run from the tip of the underside of the ‘nose’, towards the middle underside and around the side of the body towards the vent. There was a notable inflation of the ‘melon’ as the animal surfaced and this then deflated as it dived.
2 (visible) circular indentations on dorsal surface near the beginning of the ‘skirt’

Movement – slow swimming, possibly using the ‘vents’ on the side of the body to propel it forward. It moved with the ‘nose’ end leading. One photograph shows a ‘footprint’ left behind the animal.

Behaviour - First spotted just below the surface (~ 30cm), it then surfaced and swam towards the boat, stopped and lifted the ‘nose’ towards us as if sensing something in front of it.

There was a group of about 200+ bottlenose dolphins in the area, feeding on small fish. They did not appear interested in the creature, nor it by them.
Relatively calm sea conditions, sea state 1, slight easterly swell. Water depth,


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And one more.

I should have said, the photos were taken in South Africa


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In case it helps any (yeah, right) if we number the pics in the order Steve posted, chronologically they were taken in 2 4 3 1 over about 11 seconds.
Hi MBG; we've discounted Tremoctopus already. We'd been discussing this elsewhere, and have only just now received permission to post the images here. Elsewhere we have drawn a complete blank.
I have no clue what this is. So, in the lack of a name, I will name it untill such time a name is found. Now lets see. It looks like a big liver...floating in the ocean....with stripes on it. I shall call it Hepatomares striata.
Incredible!! Did it appear disoriented or look sick at all? Maybe it came up from the depths of the deep blue because of this? Did it swim away or dive down.....or did the boat eventually keep on cruising and left it as is? It kind of has that "ceph" look to it. Extremely curious I am....
Not for a moment a serious suggestion, but I can dream...it looks to me akin to some kind of vampyromorph cephalopod.

The striped structures could be short arms tucked in around the 'head', note how they are asymmetrical in picture 3 implying that they are not part of the 'mantle' but capable of independent movement. Wrinkling observable in picture 2 suggests that arms, or even a web, may be present tucked down between the striped lobes. The two circular structures could be analogous to Vampyroteuthis photophores but migrated forwards. Picture 4 seems to depict some form of internal strengthening structure under the mantle - some kind of gladius perhaps?

Perhaps the Vampire Squid isn't alone afterall? Certainly it looks prehistoric, though I'd have to draw the line at Anomalocaris as was suggested to me privately in jest...
Giant pelagic slug??? I don't get a very squidly vibe about those photos. Pretty amazing looking, whatever it is. I wonder if the movement was fluid rather than something that may be injured.
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