‘Never seen anything like that’: Scientists spot rare jellyfish only encountered once before

‘No, that’s not a face-hugger from the Alien films you see on your screen, but it sure is bizarre!’

KINGMAN REEF — A team of scientists was left in awe following the sighting of an exceptionally rare jellyfish, a creature only observed once before. The remarkable encounter occurred during an expedition led by the Ocean Exploration Trust, a non-profit organization devoted to marine exploration and research. A video captures the rare creature as it gracefully navigates the ocean depths of the Pacific, leaving the team of specialists captivated by its presence.

Upon first laying eyes on the jellyfish, one scientist can be heard exclaiming, “Woah! What is that?” as the remotely operated vehicle they are using catches sight of the creature. Another scientist adds, “I’ve never seen anything like that. I have no idea what it is.”

The team spotted this jellyfish on May 31 in the remote depths of the Pacific Ocean, a whopping 130 miles from the nearest point of reference, Kingman Reef, which itself is situated 4,800 miles from Australia.

“No, that’s not a face-hugger from the Alien films you see on your screen, but it sure is bizarre! Our team was stumped when we encountered this mysterious gelatinous creature while diving on a previously unexplored guyot north-northwest of Kingman Reef,” researchers explain in a media release.

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Researchers have only previously spotted the creature once in 2015 — also by the Ocean Exploration Trust. It is classified as an “undescribed” species, a term referring to species that have yet to be named or extensively documented by researchers.

This jellyfish distinguishes itself from others of its kind by sporting three elongated “tentacles” that sprout from its head at an unusual angle. Surprisingly, it is believed to prey on other gelatinous animals, such as fellow jellyfish and swimming sea cucumbers, utilizing its lengthy tentacles to ensnare its victims.

Dr. Dhugal Lindsay, a research scientist with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science & Technology, offered some insights on the creature’s unique tentacles.

“The imaged individual is trimerous, with only three tentacles,” Dr. Lindsay explains, according to a statement from SWNS. “This is extremely rare for a jellyfish as they typically exhibit radial symmetry, divisible into even ‘pizza slices’, rather than an odd number.”

According to Dr. Lindsay, the jellyfish holds its tentacles ahead while swimming. This way, the tentacles come into contact with large, gelatinous prey before the water current they create as they swim can reach the prey and alarm it, thus facilitating a form of stealth predation.

Believed to be part of the Bathykorus genus, this jellyfish sets itself apart from others of its kind due to its brown color. Dr. Lindsay hypothesizes that the creature feeds on bioluminescent prey, with its body coloration concealing any light emitted by struggling or digesting prey under its bell. However, he acknowledges that this is speculative.

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South West News Service writer Leo Black contributed to this report.

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