A jellyfish discovered that looks like a glowing alien has researchers stunned. Workers were surveying waters around the famed Mariana Trench when they discovered a new species of jellyfish that looks out-of-this-world.
The stunningly beautiful creature was discovered at a depth of 2.3 miles using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) underwater remote-operated vehicle, Deep Discoverer. Marine biologists believe it’s a type of “hydromedusa” of the genus Crossota, a kind of ambush-predator that lies in wait for something to unwittingly drift by its many out-stretched tentacles.
The jellyfish discovered glows yellow and red from areas inside its bell and are likely the animal’s gonads and digestive system.
The “UFO Jelly,” as it has been dubbed, is just one of many new species the Deep Discoverer has brought to light recently, including the reveal of a “ghost octopus” found in March at a depth of 14,000 feet. With a tangle of illuminated tentacles and a cluster of 8 brightly glowing bioluminescent orbs inside its body, this new jellyfish looks like something from the realm of Photoshop than science. But incredibly, it’s real, living happily at 2.3 miles underwater.
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: 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. The jellyfish discovered was swimming through the dark waters of the ocean, likely looking for prey.
“You’ll see that the long tentacles are even and extended outward, and the bell is motionless,” NOAA said about the jellyfish discovered. “This suggests an ambush predation mode. Within the bell, the radial canals in red are connecting points for what looks like the gonads in bright yellow.”
The jellyfish discovered by scientists operating the ROV Deep Discoverer from aboard the research vessel Okeanos Explorer found the species on April 24 at a depth of 12,140 feet. This was the fourth dive for the ROV for the first leg of a mission called the 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas, a three-cruise expedition run by NOAA and partners with the goal of understanding the deep-water habitats in and around the Mariana Trench.
While the jellyfish was discovered throughout the ROV dive, researchers also noticed “small, rounded balls that looked like they had been constructed from sediment,” they wrote. The balls could be a large species of single-celled amoeba or they could be marine sponges, the researchers said. Though deep-sea animals were scarce, the researchers said they did observe some wacky creatures, including “stalked crinoids and primnoid corals, swimming polychaete worms, a cusk eel, Caulophacus sponges, cladhorizid sponges, a Munidopsis squat lobster, a beautiful hydrozoan jellyfish and at least two Nematocarcinus shrimp.”