Case Closed

Scientists finally discover the origin of mysterious ocean orbs

Researchers solve a marine mystery.

H. Ringvold, et al. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS (2021)

For decades, giant gelatinous spheres up to 4 meters in diameter have been appearing throughout the ocean, perplexing both divers and scientists.

Sightings of these mysterious orbs are rare, with a new study led by Norwegian scientists confirming just 90 since 1985.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports.

H. Ringvold, et al. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS (2021)

Despite their rarity, the huge blobs of jelly have been seen from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, and from the water’s surface down to 70 meters deep.

The giant spheres are mostly found mostly by divers, rather than scientists.

It’s been guessed the blobs could come from giant larvaceans, which create “houses” made of mucous.

kanyhun / Imazins/ImaZinS/Getty Images

Another theory was that the blobs were squid egg masses — but those tend to be much smaller, and there was no evidence for what kind of squid could be making them.

Now, new research from the Norwegian-led team shows at least some of these undersea spheres are in fact egg masses from the shortfin squid Illex coindetti.

To make the determination, scientists asked divers to send in any samples they could find. The researchers got four samples back, and a genetic analysis confirmed they came from the shortfin squid.

H. Ringvold, et al. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS (2021)


With only four samples, scientists can’t confirm that every one of the blobs comes from Illex coindetii.

But given their similar appearance in the squid’s known habitat, the case seems to be closed for now.


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