New species of surreal jellyfish discovered in Enigma Seamount at a depth of 3,700 meters

In what looks more like a scene out of a James Cameron movie, this improbable creature suddenly popped into the frame of researchers on a NOAA expedition aboard the Okeanos Explorer in the Marianas Trench.

With just a few wiry tentacles and a cluster of 8 brightly reflective orbs inside its body, this new jellyfish looks more like something from the realm of Photoshop than science. But incredibly, it’s real, living mysteriously at 2.3 miles (~3,700 meters) underwater.

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NOAA video
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NOAA video

Scientists believe this animal belongs to the genus Crossota, a group of jellies that does not have a sessile polyp stage; all phases of their lives are ocean drifters. They also believe this animal is an ambush predator – note the posture it had assumed in the first half of the video: its bell motionless with its tentacles outstretched like the struts of a spider’s web, waiting for something to bumble into them. The red canals, they suggest, appear to connect the bright yellow objects, which may be gonads.

Although the jellyfish may be ‘bioluminescent’, the “lights” seen inside the jellyfish in this video are merely reflective. The most likely scenario is that the gonads of this particular species exhibit some form of fluorescence but do not illuminate independently.

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