The Giant Siphonophore Claims “Longest Animal” Title

The Giant Siphonophore Claims “Longest Animal” Title


Luca Berberich’s long standing interest in the natural world is being brought to the Talawanda Tribune in their series: Luca B. the Science G. Their third article focuses on the recently discovered Giant Siphonophore…


Photo Credit:  Smithsonian Magazine

The Giant Siphonophore (sai-fah-nuh-for) is an enigma. Growing to lengths of up to 47 meters (154 feet), this deep sea creature is a victim of underappreciation in the world of marine biology. What makes this animal so severely underhyped? The 47-meter long siphonophore, having been discovered in the midst of a global pandemic, was swept under the rug, drowned out by other, more urgent news. Because of this, the phenomena that is this creature is rarely discussed.

Monterey Bay Aquarium stated, in their Giant Siphonophore creature feature, that this siphonophore “can grow to lengths of 130 feet (40 m), longer than the Blue Whale, which is usually considered Earth’s largest animal.” However, the Blue Whale is still regarded as the largest animal by most scientists, and no one seems eager to amend this. 

So what exactly is a siphonophore, anyway? These creatures are closely related to jellyfish and anemone, resembling a cluster of silly string from a distance, while in reality they are a collection of tiny organisms called Zooids that work together to make up a larger organism. Similar to jellyfish, they sting with their tentacles, though rarely enough to be deadly. They are also carnivorous, feasting primarily on small fish and crustaceans. 

Scientists have discovered around 175 species of Siphonophore. Our friend the Giant Siphonophore- Praya Dubia– is only one of them! One of the most well known siphonophores is the Portuguese Man o’War- which is often incorrectly assumed to be a jellyfish. 

While the Giant Siphonophore may not be officially considered the largest animal, it is still a revolutionary discovery, and is a glimpse into what other massive creatures may live even deeper down.