What is that gelatinous stuff washed up on the beach?

“They are called salps, and are present because of phytoplankton blooms, which are their food source,” Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue reports. [Photo courtesy KDH Ocean Rescue]

Beachgoers have been wondering lately about little clear blobs that look a bit like chopped up jellyfish washing up along the shores of the Outer Banks.

They’re not jellyfish at all, nor are they sea lice or anything that might sting or bite. They’re called salps –“community-forming animals that look like a gelatinous barrel,” says NOAA.

“To gather food, they process water through their bodies at rates on the order of liters per hour, using muscular contractions to pass water across a mucous net inside their body that captures plankton and detritus,” NOAA writes.

Salps are voracious eaters of algae blooms, says IFLScience.com, and help transport carbon from the ocean’s surface to the sea floor.

Some have black dots in the middle and others slightly orange. The dot is their digestive system, Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue reports, “and they are completely harmless.”

Though salps look similar to jellyfish, they are chordates: animals with dorsal nerve cords, related to vertebrates, animals with backbones, ocean rescue said, which means “they are more closely related to humans than jellyfish!”

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.

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