A diver was baffled when he encountered what appeared to be a strange spectral fish while swimming off the Maltese coast.
Raniero Borg, who discovered the bizarre creature near Marsalforn, Malta, said he’d never seen anything like it in 40 years of diving.
He said: ‘It looked like a miniature jelly whale or dolphin.
‘It had a large mouth and you could see its gut as its body was transparent. It was approx 12 inches in length and around eight inches wide.
‘Its spinal cord and rib-like features showed too. I was very curious about it. I have never come across anything like this during my 40 years of diving.’
In his footage, Mr Borg touches the creature and his hand can clearly be seen through its body.
It is shaped like a fish, with a mouth plainly visible at the front and a tube-like organ observable inside.
The 61-year-old diver didn’t know what it was at first. ‘I thought it was a dolphin or whale foetus.’
Now, after consulting contacts at Malta’s International Ocean Institute, he has discovered that what he saw was a type of salp.
Salps are often mistaken for jellyfish, but are actually taxonomically closer to humans. And they grow remarkably fast – they reach maturity in just 48 hours and can increase their body length by up to 10 per cent per hour.
They move through the water by contracting bands of muscles that ring their bodies, thereby drawing water in at one end and pushing it out at the other.
They’re filter feeders and not fussy eaters, devouring anything they catch in their feeding net, but their main food is phytoplankton – tiny marine algae.
Mr Borg, a businessman, believes his encounter is the only one of its kind along his island’s coastline. ‘It was most probably the first time we took record of this in Maltese waters,’ he said.
But evidence suggests various salp sightings around the islands.
Salps normally live for between two weeks and three months until they are eaten by a mackerel or a tuna.