On April 24th, researchers aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer discovered a new psychedelic jellyfish drifting in water some 2.3 miles deep near the Enigma Seamount. The mount, which is so named because so little is known about it, is part of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. The team aboard the Okeanos Explorer will conduct a scientific expedition in the area until mid-July, with the intent to learn more about the region’s deep-sea environments.
The new jellyfish is believed to belong to the Crossota genus, and was first spotted on footage taken by the expedition’s remote-operated vehicle (ROV), Deep Discoverer. Depicted in fluorescent red and yellow upon the screen, the new species looks like an extra in a sci-fi film, and yet it is just one of many unearthly-looking creatures now known to inhabit the extreme deep. The unnamed jellyfish has two sets of tentacles, one long and one short. The longer tentacles extend outwards from the jellyfish’s motionless bell, a characteristic that the team says suggests it may be an ambush predator.
Within the jellyfish’s gelatinous bell, luminous red radial canals connect patches of bright yellow, which the scientists think are the animal’s gonads. Unlike other types of jellyfish that spend the first part of their lives as stationary or sessile polyps, those belonging to the Crossota genus spend even the earliest stages of their existence floating freely through the water column. The new jellyfish is one of many new species to have been discovered by the Okeanos Explorer, the only federally funded ship in the U.S. assigned to exploring remote areas of the ocean solely “for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge.”
On the first operational dive of the ship’s 2016 season, the team discovered a new ghost-like octopus at a depth of a little over 14,000 feet (4,290 m) near Hawaii’s Necker Island. On this most recent expedition alone, Deep Discoverer has captured many incredible sights, including footage of a deep-dwelling sixgill shark, a new sponge species and an as-yet unidentified species of large, single-celled amoeba. As well as rare or previously unknown marine life, the team is on the lookout for new hydrothermal vent sites, mud volcanoes, bottom-fish habitats and deep-sea coral and sponge communities in an area that remains largely unexplored by humans.
If the thought of venturing into new territory in search of the unknown fills your adventurer’s soul with excitement, you can experience the Okeanos Explorer’s latest expedition firsthand via the ship’s live stream.