The siphonosphore the researchers identified is actually millions of interconnected clones:
The gigantic, silly-string-like sea creature is about 49 feet in diameter, resulting in a total length of the outer ring of 154 feet. But “the entire creature is much, much longer,” Logan Mock-Bunting, a spokesperson for the Schmidt Ocean Institute, told Newsweek. “The crew is estimating it to be more than 120 meters in total length — possibly over 390 feet long.”
The creature was classified as a siphonophore, a deep-sea predator that is actually a “colonial organism” made up of millions of much smaller organisms. Some of these smaller organisms even have stinging cells that can kill the siphonophore’s prey.Victor Tangermann, “Deep Sea Giant” at Futurism
Though the siphonophore attracts descriptions such as The Borg meets Clone Wars, there’s no need to waste money on science fiction:
Siphonophores like this one are deep-sea predators that lie in wait for unfortunate animals to come into contact with the stinging cells found on some of the specialized clones…
“Once a clone captures its prey—a fish or crustacean—it will reel it to the colony & other clones that work as mouths will surround it. Often many swallowing it at once. Once they prey is digested, they’ll send the nutrients through a long digestive tract that travels down the whole colony, so that every other clone can use the nutrients. In this way, this siphonophore may remain still and feed for a long time, and I mean LONG,” she said.Aristos Georgiou, “Otherworldly, String-Like Organism Spotted in Deep Sea Is Made Up of ‘Millions of Interconnected Clones’” at Newsweek
Apolemia (the siphonosphore the researchers spotted) could be decades to centuries old, we are told, because things change slowly in the deep, only a few degrees above zero.
Is it one life form or many? Does it age or does it just die when something happens? What about apparent communal information processing in some colony organisms like the Paris Blob? The questions that seemed easy for an ant colony aren’t quite that way here.
This question has also come up with the Blob at the Paris Zoo:
Polycephalum’s type of organism is thought to have existed for roughly a billion years though it has only been studied intensively in recent decades. It is technically called a “protist” (a catch-all category for life forms that are hard to classify). It makes decisions with no apparent source of intelligence:
“Many of the processes we might consider fundamental features of the brain, such as sensory integration, decision-making and now, learning, have all been displayed in these non-neural organisms. – Romain P. Boisseau, David Vogel and Audrey Dussutour, “Habituation in non-neural organisms: evidence from slime moulds” at Proceedings of the Royal Society B
– Is a brain really needed for thinking?, Mind Matters News
But then consider the slime mold of amoebas, acting as a colony that travels in search of bread crumbs:
Is an amoeba smarter than your computer? Hype aside, the microbe’s math skills ace the Traveling Salesman problem and may help with cybersecurity: “You might not think that a one-cell life form can easily solve a data problem that has vexed programmers for decades. To reach bread crumbs. But several studies over recent years show precisely that.” Also, “When we hear hype about machines that will soon out-think people, we might put it in perspective by recalling that we still struggle to build a machine that can out-think amoebas looking for crumbs.” – Mind Matters News
We always seem to be discovering more of these oddities which make many traditional definitions of life irrelevant.