Slide 1 of 27
Dredged from the depths
Take a stroll on a beach and you're likely to encounter plentiful evidence of life from the ocean amid the flotsam: stray clumps of seaweed, colorful seashells, even the occasional crustacean or jellyfish.
But sometimes what washes up on a beach is much harder to identify. Perhaps the object is partly decomposed, or represents a species of marine animal or plant rarely glimpsed on land. Or maybe its condition raises questions about previously unknown relationships or behaviors of ocean creatures, or offers hints about unusual ocean dynamics.
Here are some intriguing examples of mysterious and peculiar emissaries from the sea, which remind us that there is much to be discovered about life in the oceans' depths.
Waxy clumpsSlide 2 of 27
Qu'est-ce-que c'est? Beginning on July 14, several French beaches in the north of the country experienced a new type of visitor — thousands of yellow, clumpy masses that arrived with the tide and defied identification, though reports indicated that they smelled faintly of paraffin.
An estimated several tons of the waxy objects were observed on shores and along 37 miles (60 kilometers) of French coastline, and they might represent a by-product of hot grease in boat exhaust, according to the organization Sea-Mer Association, which is supervising the clean-up.Slide 3 of 27
"Sea pickles"Slide 4 of 27
Gelatinous, translucent, bumpy-skinned oblong sea creatures called pyrosomes have recently taken up residence in waters along the Pacific coastline of the U.S., congregating in the millions and washing up on beaches — and no one knows why.
The so-called "sea pickles" are generally found in more tropical waters, and it is uncertain what triggered their unusual population explosion in 2017, representatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said in a statement.Slide 5 of 27
A modern "sea monster"Slide 6 of 27
A modern "sea monster"
Gooey masses of decomposing flesh that wash up on beaches can be particularly challenging to identify. In May, residents of Seram Island, Indonesia were treated to the sight of a beached boat-sized creature dripping with red fluid and with parts of its body inflated by quantities gas-producing bacteria.
However, scientists explained that the creature was a type of baleen whale, pointing out noticeable grooves in its head area and the presence of visible plates that once held rows of brushy baleen filters.Slide 7 of 27
Massive ice ballsSlide 8 of 27