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Marrus orthocanna is a species of pelagic siphonophore, a colonial animal composed of a complex arrangement of zooids, some of which are polyps and some medusae. It lives in the Arctic and other cold, deep waters, swimming independently in mid-ocean.[1]

The Siphonophores are an order of cnidarian invertebrates in the class Hydrozoa. The Portuguese man o' war is an example.

A siphonophore is not a single animal. It is a colony of four kinds of zooids. Zooids are very small, highly modified individuals. All the zooids in a colony are genetically identical. These zooids are specialized polyps and medusoids.[2]

Though structurally similar to other cnidarians, the zooids do not live by themselves: they are attached to each other. Each type of zooid is not self-sufficient. It depends for survival on the others doing what it cannot do by itself.

So close do the zooids fit together that the colony looks like a single individual. It was a triumph of 19th century biology to discover the real nature of the siphonophores.


  1. Siphonophores Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  2. Grzimek B. Schlager N. & Olendorf D. 2003. Grzimek's Animal life encyclopaedia. Thomson Gale.