New Scientist reports that a team from BP passed the video, which was taken using a deep sea remote vehicle during oil rig maintenance, on to Daniel Jones of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. Jones is part of a project called Serpent, which uses videos such as these -- all taken by oil companies and the like working in the deep sea -- to identify little-known marine life.
Bathyphysa conifera is a member of the order Siphonophorae. Siphonophores may look superficially like jellyfish -- and they're not too distantly related -- but they're far weirder. Siphonophores actually clone themselves in order to grow. Instead of a single body, one siphonophore is in fact a tightly knit colony of many organisms -- sometimes thousands of them.
With all of those individuals coming together, they can grow to be the longest animals in the sea. Meanwhile, the organisms that make them up serve different functions. Some are born to feed, others to reproduce. It's kind of incredible, and scientists aren't totally sure how the colonies manage to coordinate so seamlessly. It's a little tricky to figure out how one siphonophore can really be considered a single animal, with so many individuals comprising it. But because no part of the whole could function on its own, it really does take a village to make a single specimen.
The deadly Portuguese man o' war is Bathyphysa conifera's most famous cousin. But other, less toxic members of the order get scientists pretty excited, too: