Invasion Of The Sea Pickles What in the world is a Sea Pickle? Where in the world can you find them? And Why in the world do scientists refer to them as the 'Unicorn of the Sea?' Join Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz for latest Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and WOW in the world of Sea Pickles!
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Invasion Of The Sea Pickles

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Invasion Of The Sea Pickles

Invasion Of The Sea Pickles

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Stay seated. Three, two, one, ignition.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Get ready for an adventure of magnificent proportions.


THE POP UPS: (Singing) I don't know what you've been told, but we're in a golden age. So may discoveries that are jumping off the page. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: With Guy and Mindy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're on our way, Houston.


This is so nice. Mindy, thanks for inviting me to lunch today.


Oh, you're welcome, Guy Raz. Mostly, I just didn't want to eat in front of the bathroom mirror by myself. But, also, that's what best friends are for. both.

RAZ: Yeah, sure beats eating by myself.

THOMAS: This calamari fish burger is off the hook. I love that this place serves it between two puns.

RAZ: And I just got an order of the fish tacos.

THOMAS: Wait. Why are you eating tacos with a dinglehopper?

RAZ: You mean this fork?

THOMAS: So sofishticated (ph). Krilling (ph) me, Guy Raz.

RAZ: Hey. By the way, did your sandwich come with a pickle? Because I love pickles.

THOMAS: Oh, let me see here. No pickle? You've got to be squidding (ph) me.

RAZ: It's totally OK. Don't worry about it.

THOMAS: It is dolphin-itely (ph) not OK, Guy Raz. You can't have a fish sandwich without a pickle. The pickle is the whole porpoise. This is ofishially (ph) a disaster.

RAZ: No, really, Mindy, it's fine. Don't worry about it.

THOMAS: Wait a minute. I know where we can catch some fresh pickles.

RAZ: Mindy, there's going to be plenty of other opportunities to eat pickles. So don't - wait a minute. Did you just say catch some pickles?

THOMAS: Yes, I did. I've been herring about these fresh pickles that you can find all on the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Come on. Get your net. We're going to catch us some sea pickles.

RAZ: Mindy, I think you're taking this a little bit too far.

THOMAS: Reggie, put on your wetsuit, you cuckoo old bird. Next stop - the southwest of Alaska.

RAZ: Mindy, I really don't think this is necessary. I mean, we could just run to the store and...

THOMAS: Nope. You've got to trust me on this one, Guy Raz, because I know the perfect pickle to go with my fish sandwich and your fish taco. Once we get them on the plane together, it's going to be like a family reunion. You'll see.

RAZ: Well...

THOMAS: Come on. Let's go. Here. Snap on your snorkel and hold on to your halibut, Guy Raz, because here we go.

Man, nice water land, Reggie. You OK, Guy Raz?

RAZ: Mindy, we forgot to pay our bill at the restaurant.

THOMAS: Oh, it's fine. We're not done eating yet.

RAZ: But we're in the Gulf of Alaska.

THOMAS: Here. Hold on to my foot, and I will swim us to shore.

RAZ: What is happening?

THOMAS: You said you loved pickles, so we're going to catch you a pickle. Man, what an adventure.

RAZ: Mindy, what are we doing here?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, wipe all the seaweed off your eyes and take a look around.

RAZ: What are those things?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, feast your eyes on the great sea pickles.

RAZ: What?

THOMAS: All you can eat.

RAZ: They're everywhere.

THOMAS: Go ahead. Pick one up.

RAZ: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We are not eating these.

THOMAS: Sure we are. A pickle's a pickle. I can't help it if these ones glow in the dark, aren't green, wiggle in your hands and smell like fish. Go ahead. Take a bite.

RAZ: Mindy, I just don't think...

THOMAS: Wait a minute. I just remembered something.

RAZ: What?

THOMAS: Sea pickles are not edible.

RAZ: Well, I could've told you that.

THOMAS: And they're not even real pickles.

RAZ: I could've told you that, too.

THOMAS: But they are super fascinating, which makes this whole trip worth it.

RAZ: Mindy, my fish tacos are sitting in a restaurant on the other side of the country, getting cold. What are we doing here?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, your fish tacos can wait 'cause we're about to fill our bellies with science. When I say bellies, I mean brains because we can't eat these pyrosomes.

RAZ: Wait - pyrosomes?

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. So pyrosome is how you say sea pickle in science.

RAZ: Interesting. So let's take a look at these things, Mindy. They really do look like pickles. And then there are thousands of them laid out all across this shore.

THOMAS: Yeah. So pick one up.


THOMAS: Now, what does it feel like to you?

RAZ: Well, it's a little bumpy like a pickle. But it's sort of fluffy and slimy. I mean, it feels kind of gelatinous, almost like it's made out of a kind of jelly.


RAZ: And for a pickle, it's not exactly green. In fact, it's pinkish and sort of clear like it's translucent.

THOMAS: Crazy, right? It's almost like you can see right through it.

RAZ: And if I cup it in the palm of my hands, it glows in the dark.

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. So some sea pickle pyrosomes or bioluminescent, which means that they're a living organism that produces light - and in this case, kind of a bluish-greenish light.

RAZ: Wow - so just like some jellyfish.

THOMAS: Exactoritos (ph). And if you break up the word pyrosome, pyro being the Greek word for fire and some or soma meaning body, you get a bunch of little fire bodies.

RAZ: Wow.

THOMAS: Here, put on these magnifying goggles and take an even closer look.

RAZ: Wait. There's a bunch of tiny creatures moving around in there. What are those things?

THOMAS: Oh. So those are zooids, Guy Raz.

RAZ: Zooids?

THOMAS: Yeah. So zooids are the teeny, tiny, little bioluminescent creatures that live inside the sea pickle and basically make it what it is.

RAZ: Wow.

THOMAS: And these little colonies of zooids use their glowing, bioluminescent light to talk to each other and to work together like a team to make their pyrosome pickle propel and swim through the ocean.

RAZ: Wow - so much of life inside this one little pickle. So are they all about this size?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, some pyrosomes can get up to 6 feet wide and 60 feet long.

RAZ: That's large enough to fit full-grown humans inside.

THOMAS: Now you know what I want for my birthday this year.

RAZ: Don't get any ideas, Mindy.


RAZ: So how do they eat, by the way? I mean, that's a lot of little mouths to feed in there.

THOMAS: OK. So I should start by saying that pyrosomes are filter feeders, which means that they eat little, teeny, tiny sea creatures called plankton.

RAZ: But given that each pyrosome is kind of like its own little colony of smaller creatures, how do they do it?

THOMAS: Oh, OK. So this is pretty cool. So sea pickles - or pyrosomes - move slowly and effortlessly through the ocean by pushing water through their body, sort of like a tube. And then the zooids inside grab their plankton out of that water as it passes through.

RAZ: And what do they do with everything else that comes through with the water?

THOMAS: Well, they just filter it out through the other end of the tube.

RAZ: So let me just make sure I've got this straight. The pyrosomes suck in water with lots of stuff. The zooids grab only the stuff they want. And then the rest of the waste and water gets blown out the other end of the tube?

THOMAS: You got it, Guy Raz. It kind of works like one of those conveyor-belt sushi places.

RAZ: Wow. These creatures are incredible, Mindy - magical, almost.

THOMAS: I know.

RAZ: So why aren't they in the fish tanks of every dentist's office around the world?

THOMAS: Oh, well, that's because up until now, they've been a pretty rare find.

RAZ: But we're standing on a beach with thousands of them.

THOMAS: So that's the mystery.

RAZ: Did you say mystery?

THOMAS: Mystery.

RAZ: What?

THOMAS: So this is where it gets dark, Guy Raz. Have a seat.

RAZ: On the sand?

THOMAS: Well, yes. Just...

RAZ: But I - but my wool trousers - well, you know, what happens if I sit on a sea pickle?

THOMAS: OK, fine. Then just stand. I just want you to listen carefully because that's what you do when someone uses a voice and tells you that they have a mystery.

RAZ: Right. OK, got it. But I think there's a squid in my shoe.

THOMAS: Guy Raz, I'm trying to tell you a mystery.

RAZ: Sorry.

THOMAS: Hey, Jed.


THOMAS: Can we bring the music down?

ANDERSON: Okiedoke (ph).

THOMAS: Thank you. Guy Raz, there has been an invasion of pyrosomes.

RAZ: Invasion of the sea pickles? Hold on to your halibuts. They're coming for us. Prepare for an attack.

THOMAS: Pull yourself together, man. Guy Raz, look at me. Look at me in the eye. They are not here to attack you.

RAZ: But you said invasion.

THOMAS: Well, It is an invasion but not the kind you're thinking of. However, this invasion of sea pickles - or pyrosomes - is causing big problems and clogging up the waterways off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

RAZ: Well, what kinds of problems? I imagine that a lot of fishermen looking for salmon and halibut are met with a huge surprise when they reel in a bunch of sea pickles.

THOMAS: You know it, Guy Raz. And, in fact, just a few months ago, some researchers were searching for rare fish in Canada's Columbia River. And they threw their nets out into the water. And five minutes later, when they reeled them back in, they were shocked and surprised to see their nets filled with 60,000 sea pickles - in five minutes.

RAZ: So where do they come from, and why now?

THOMAS: Well, up until now, these sea pickles - or pyrosomes - were so rare and so mysterious that they were known to marine biologists as the unicorns of the sea.

RAZ: That's a lot of unicorns swimming around this shoreline.

THOMAS: And like unicorns, marine biologists knew that they existed, but they were never able to really spend much time observing them because they were so hard to find in the warm, tropical, far, far-out waters where they lived.

RAZ: So waters much, much further south.

THOMAS: Yup. But - I said but - over the last three years, the waters off the coast of the Pacific Northwest have warmed to hotter than normal temperatures. And millions of these things have been showing up. And they're being found all the way from Northern California to the southwest coast of Alaska.

RAZ: So do scientists think that the warming temperatures in the water up here makes these pyrosomes feel more at home?

THOMAS: Well, they don't know for sure. But that is one hypothesis - or scientific guess - that marine biologists are exploring. And there's a team of researchers at the University of Oregon studying this great sea pickle invasion. And they're also looking for clues like changes in the sea currents and the eating habits of these little creatures.

RAZ: Interesting.

THOMAS: Yeah. And they're hoping that the answers to these questions might just lead to an explanation.

RAZ: Well, I guess for now we can take care of this problem by alerting the bigger fish that there's a sea pickle buffet just waiting for them.

THOMAS: Oh, well, actually...

RAZ: Calling all whales, calling all dolphins.

THOMAS: Guy Raz, whales and dolphins don't speak English.

RAZ: Oh, yeah, you're right. I mean (imitating dolphin call).

THOMAS: Guy Raz? Use your human words.

RAZ: I mean - what?

THOMAS: There are not enough whales or dolphins in these waters to possibly eat all of these sea pickles.

RAZ: Wow. I guess this really is the great sea pickle problem. So what do we do?

THOMAS: Well for now, we head back to the restaurant so you can finish your fish tacos. (Shouting) Reggie. Where's Reggie?

RAZ: Should we take a pickle for the road, Mindy?

THOMAS: Pretty sure you get a sweet dill on one around here, Guy Raz.

RAZ: I relish that idea.

THOMAS: Look at you, krilling it with the puns.

RAZ: Whoa. Watch where you're stepping, Mindy. You almost stepped on some road dill.

THOMAS: Not as funny when it's true.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: WOW IN THE WORLD will be right back. Grown-ups, this message is for you.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: That's it. Back to the show.


THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world.

THOMAS: Hi. What's your name?

MERCY: Mercy (ph).

THOMAS: So, Mercy, you had a major adventure today - in fact, for us, might be, like, a big deal. But for you, it's just, like, another day at the rodeo. What happened to you today?

MERCY: I was on a field trip at WIS. And I went to the Air and Space Museum. And while I was on the bus, the alarm - the emergency alarm - sounded 10 times.

THOMAS: On the bus?


THOMAS: What did it sound like?

MERCY: Wee-woo. Wee-woo. Wee-woo. One of the alarms - like, they had tape over it. But that sounded the alarm whenever the bus stopped.

THOMAS: So every time the bus stopped at a red light the alarm would go off?


THOMAS: And did everybody in the bus freak out?


THOMAS: What did the kids sound like?

MERCY: Help. We're in an emergency breakdown. Help. Help. Help.

THOMAS: And if you could make a brand-new sound for the alarm, what would it be?

MERCY: Ding-aling. Ding-aling. Ding-aling. Ring.

THOMAS: That's a good sound for an alarm. So did they ever get the alarm to stay off?

MERCY: I have no idea.

THOMAS: Was the alarm going off on the bus the best part of your field trip?

MERCY: Yes. It was so funny every time the kids freaked out.

THOMAS: Do you wish you had an alarm in your car?


THOMAS: Do you wish you could wake up every morning to an alarm?


THOMAS: Well, good news, Mercy. Some day, you're going to be a grown-up, and that's going to be your life every livelong day.


THOMAS: In the world.

MERCY: (Laughter).

THOMAS: Hey. Thanks so much for listening to WOW IN THE WORLD this week.

RAZ: And, parents, if you want to continue the conversation with your kids, we've posted some questions about this episode at our website,

THOMAS: And while you're there, you can find links to some of the sources we used to tell our stories this week.

RAZ: Also, we love hearing from you. You can write us at

THOMAS: Our show is produced by Jed Anderson. Say hello, Jed.

ANDERSON: Yello (ph).

RAZ: Our theme song, "Wow In The World" was written and performed by The Pop Ups. Check them out at

THOMAS: Big thanks to Mercy for sharing her wow-worthy story of the false alarm field trip on the not-so magic school bus. Also, we love hearing what's been wowing you. For a chance to be featured on an upcoming Thursday episode, have your grown-ups help you share something that's recently wowed your world by dialing 1-888-71WOWWOW. Thanks again for listening, subscribing and telling your friends about our show. We'll be back for a brand-new Thursday edition. In the meantime, go forth and find your own wow in the world.


THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: WOW IN THE WORLD was made by Tinkercast and sent to you by NPR.


STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: And I'm Stephen Thompson. There's more stuff to watch and read these days than any one person can get to. That's why we make Pop Culture Happy Hour.

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