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Friday 22 August 2014

'Alien' invader washed up on Ventry strand

MARIAN O'FLAHERTY

Published 16/11/2011 | 09:25

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Katie O'dwyer, head aquarist at Dingle Oceanworld with a Phronima, a creatures that makes a 'barrel' (also pictured) from living sea-squirts, which was washed up on Ventry Beach last Sunday. LEFT: The Ventry alien and (above) the movie 'Alien' the tiny... Credit: Photo by Marian O'Flaherty

PHRONIMAS, deep-sea creatures that inspired the Alien movies because of their practice of burrowing into their victims, were discovered on Ventry Beach last week.

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These tiny, see-through, parasitic creatures are normally found in deep oceanic waters and their discovery by local marine biologist Kevin Flannery last Sunday has baffled experts.

The discovery is believed to be the first time creatures of this kind have been found in Kerry and, according to head aquarist at Dingle Oceanworld Katie O'dwyer.

"Phronimas are a type of amphipod, related to crustaceans, such as crab and lobster and they live in very deep oceanic waters," she told The Kerryman. "They find a Salp, a type of Tunicate or Sea-squirt, and they carve them out to create a 'barrel' which they then live in."

"However, scientific studies have found that the bits of the Salp that are left when the Phronima is living in them, are actually still alive."

The Phronima still has to swim around but uses the barrel like a little dwelling; as the food and water comes through it.

There is an interesting anecdote which claims that the Phronima served as the inspiration for the alien queen, Xenomorph Regina, immortalised in the works of artist HR Giger and first seen on the bigscreen in James Cameron's, 'Alien' movie – which has gone on to become one of the most successful sci-fi franchises in movie history.

Indeed this real life mini-monster and the Alien Queen do share some similarities according to Katie.

"Some of our information also indicates that it is actually the female Phronimas that burrow out these barrels as it provides protection for the eggs they lay," she said.

"Phronimas normally live in deep, deep waters; the fact that they have washed up on the beach like this in West Kerry is very strange indeed - you could say they are 'alien' to these waters," she added.

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