A few years ago, scientists on the Okeanos Explorer came across a peculiar landscape while examining the deep ocean about 850 miles southwest of Hawai’i. There were a wide variety of sea sponges rising up on their stalks, their bodies turned to face the main current, which carried tiny food particles. The scene inspired one of the scientists to denote the landscape the “Forest of the Weird.”
But the group on the Okeanos Explorer, which was on an expedition led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was in for yet another delightful surprise. Among all the other strange sponges was one that stood out for its long, thin neck, elongated head, and huge eyes. Remind you of anyone, or rather anything, famous? For the scientists, the resemblance was clear: The mysterious sponge looked like a mini version of E.T., Steven Spielberg’s beloved alien in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and as it turns out, it was an entirely new type of sponge.