Researchers working in the South Pacific have captured stunning footage of a deep-sea jellyfish that looks like a flying saucer with tentacles.
Marine biologists working on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer spotted this beautiful jelly at Utu Seamount in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. NOAA, as part of its 2017 American Samoa Expedition, is using an ROV in conjunction with its flagship scientific research vessel to investigate these protected waters, which are home to an incredibly diverse population of marine life.
According to NOAA zoologist Allen Collins, this jelly is a rhopalonematid trachymedusa. These animals are primarily found in the deep ocean, and are identifiable by their umbrella-like appearance.
As noted by the biologists in the video, the translucent creature’s reproductive organs can be seen in bright yellow, and its digestive system appears in red. It’s not immediately obvious why this jelly features two types of tentacles—one set that faces up and another that faces down. It’s possible this configuration helps it to snatch its prey.
The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa covers 13,581 square miles of nearshore coral reef and open ocean waters across the Samoan archipelago. This sanctuary was first established in 1986, and then greatly expanded in 2012 into six discrete protected areas. It contains a host of scientific curiosities, including a wide variety of marine life, coral reefs (including a 500-year-old coral head called Big Momma that stands 21 feet (6.4 meters) tall), hydrothermal vents, and many items of archaeological interest (this area is located in the cradle of Polynesia’s oldest culture).
Last year, NOAA scientists captured footage of a similarly spellbinding jellyfish near the Mariana Trench, a creature belonging to the Crossota family. As the Okeanos Explorer’s ongoing investigations are showing, there’s still much to learn about life at the bottom of the sea. [NOAA]