Scientists enthralled by bizarre shape-shifting deep sea jellyfish

For most of us the deep sea is mysterious, its creatures alien, spooky and often ghost-like. Its a world as unfamiliar to us as the moon, with creatures that are almost impossible to imagine. And scientists just captured one such creature on video.

Some 2590 below the surface in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, an exploratory mission that’s part of the Ocean Exploration Trust recorded a graceful but strange jellyfish slowly curling itself around and unfurling into a ribbon in what almost looked like a dance. Flaring a net-like skirt marked by a network of translucent veins and revealing a small hitchhiker inside, the Deepstaria jellyfish enthralled the scientists.



Scientists were full of questions about the jellyfish
The mysterious Deepstaria jellyfish, floating in its silent world. Screenshot by the EVNautilus via YouTube

And they had questions, notes ScienceAlert:

“What is that? What’s that red structure inside? What’s even going on there? What is it thinking? What are we thinking?”


As they pondered the creature, it began changing shape, shifting from ghost to ribbon and back again. This is when the scientists began to realize this was a deep-sea jellyfish, likely from the genus Deepstaria, and therefore a relative of the equally mysterious D. enigmatica, a species that has rarely been observed.


And they remained fascinated as the diaphanous jellyfish floated in its largely unknown world that’s full of profoundly bizarre creatures, Mashable reports. They certainly didn’t fail to notice the bright red isopod that bobbed like a cork inside the jellyfish. Isopods are segmented crustaceans that are related to deep-sea pillbugs (as well as the ones we liked to play with when we were kids), ScienceAlert reports.


This jellyfish had a hitchhiker
This bright red isopod looks rather like it belongs in the movie Alien. Screenshot by EVNautilus via YouTube.


But Deepstaria isn’t feeding on the isopod, instead, it’s “likely that this small crustacean consumes pieces of jelly while remaining hidden from predators,” NautilusLive reports online.


The researchers have embarked on this expedition by using the remotely operated vessel The Nautilus in order to explore the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which is a protected area that encompasses 490,343 square miles in the central Pacific Ocean. Their hope is to document the habitats within these deep seas and the amazing creatures living within.


Scientists observed the Deepstaria jellyfish changing shape
Deepstaria as it begins to change shape. Screenshot by EVNautilus via YouTube


Including the remarkable shape-shifting being in front of them. And let me tell you, Deepstaria is as mysterious as you get. Next to nothing is known about it, including how it copes with those hitchhiking isopods. No one knows what these jellies eat or how they eat. And even less is known about how they reproduce or just how far down they live.


What we do know is this: Unlike most jellyfish, Deepstaria doesn’t have stinging tentacles. Instead, these creatures are filter feeders, scientists believe. Their bells function somewhat like a bag which opens and closes to trap their prey. But just how they digest this food or distribute it to the rest of their body is still a mystery, although there are some ideas.

“The geometric mesh pattern is an intricate network of canals that lead back to its stomach at the top of the bell,” Nautilus explains on its site. “As the jelly can reach a large size when inflated, these channels help distribute nutrients across the entire expanse.”

Scientists watched as the jellyfish slowly unfurled
The Deepstaria continues to unfurl. Screenshot by EVNautilus via YouTube


First discovered in the 1960s and described in 1967, D. enigmatica was named after famed explorer Jacques Cousteau’s submersible Deepstar 4000.


Let’s hope that over time, we have the chance to learn more about this extraordinary creature. Quite obviously one doesn’t need to travel to outer space to find aliens. You can definitely find them in the videos below.


Featured image courtesy of the video above

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