“Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) recently recorded a video of a huge, nearly invisible jellyfish. Spotting it is extremely uncommon, as this type of jellyfish has been observed only nine times during thousands of underwater expeditions.”
“The MBARI remote-controlled vehicle (ROV) named Doc Ricketts discovered what the Institute calls a ‘swirling red curtain.’ This enormous phantom jellyfish, known as Stygiomedusa gigantea, measures over one meter (3.3 feet) in diameter and has four long, ribbon-like oral (mouth) arms that can reach lengths of more than 10 meters (33 feet). Despite thousands of dives conducted by MBARI, this particular species has been spotted only nine times.”
MBARI states that the first phantom jellyfish was gathered in 1899. However, since then, scientists have come across this giant jellyfish only around 100 times in total. It wasn’t until 1959 that scientists identified it as a new species. Even today, we have very little information about this creature from the deep sea. This magnificent deep-sea animal seems to live all over the world, as it has been observed in all oceans except for the Arctic. MBARI believes that the difficulties of exploring the deep sea are the reason we haven’t seen this large and widely spread jellyfish more often.
“In the past, scientists used trawl nets to study deep-sea creatures. These nets are good for studying tough animals like fish, crustaceans, and squids. However, jellyfish simply dissolve into a gel-like substance when caught in trawl nets,” explains MBARI.
“The cameras on MBARI’s ROVs have enabled MBARI scientists to study these creatures in their natural habitat without harming them. High-quality video, including 4K resolution, provides incredible insights into the giant phantom jelly’s appearance and behaviors. These details would have remained hidden if scientists had relied on specimens caught in trawl nets.”
The giant phantom jellyfish can inhabit a range from the ocean’s surface down to 21,900 feet, but it’s typically located in the midwater, often referred to as the midnight zone or bathypelagic zone. This zone exists at depths usually ranging from about 1,000 to 4,000 meters (3,280 to 13,120 feet). In this zone, there is no sunlight, and water pressure is extremely high. While not confirmed, it is believed that giant phantom jellyfish likely feed on plankton and small fish.
During this specific expedition, scientists observed a type of fish known as the pelagic brotula (Thalassobathia pelagica) as it circled near the body of the jellyfish and moved in and out of its large oral arms.
“The vast, open waters of the midnight zone provide little protection, so numerous creatures seek sanctuary in the plentiful gelatinous animals that inhabit this environment,” explains MBARI.
The pictures and videos are truly remarkable. MBARI has a comprehensive section on the giant phantom jelly on its website, along with a dedicated page showcasing all the fascinating creatures it has encountered.