Stunning Jellyfish With Lights Discovered in Mariana Trench, 12,000 Feet Deep

May 3, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

Update: Multiple media reports seemed to suggest this jellyfish is a new species. We asked the NOAA and this is their response:

Michael Ford, NOAA oceanographer and jelly expert, is confident the jellyfish is of the genus Crossota. Its physical attributes and depth at which it was sighted (~3,700 meters) are consistent with Crossota. We saw a similar hydromedusa from the genus Crossota in our 2015 expedition around Puerto Rico.

It is not likely a new species, but additional analysis is required to know for sure. It exhibits similar characteristics to Crossota millsae, but we cannot say for certain without further research.

A jellyfish was discovered 12,000 deep in the waters of the Pacific Ocean near the Mariana Islands on April 24.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Okeanos Explorer was exploring Enigma Seamount—an underwater mountain. 

Thanks to the mission, we now know a little bit more about the area. The NOAA’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) took some pictures and videos down there, which included the jellyfish.

Properly called a hydromedusa, scientists believe it belongs to the genus Crossota. At the beginning of the video, we see a long set of tentacles extending outward while the bell remains motionless. This suggests an “ambush predation mode,” according to NOAA’s description of the video. The red stripes and bright yellow spots are believed to be reproductive organs.

The 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Mariana expedition aims to “collect critical baseline information of unknown and poorly known areas” in and around the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, and the Northern Mariana Islands between April 20 and July 10, 2016. 

The ROV can go as deep as almost 20,000 feet, though the deepest parts of the trench are over 36,000 feet deep.

The Okeanos Explorer is the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to systematically explore the ocean “for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge,” the NOAA website states. Since it was commissioned in 2008, the Okeanos Explorer has explored the Indonesian “Coral Triangle Region;” benthic environments in the Galápagos; the Mid-Cayman Rise in the Caribbean Sea; and deep-sea habitats and marine life in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The NOAA has live streaming of the Okeanos Explorer’s activities, using three different camera streams (Cameras 1 and 2 have the underwater scenes). It can be watched here.

Note that occasionally on the feeds, you will see two red dots—these laser points are 10 centimeters (almost four inches) apart and are used by scientists to determine the sizes of things that they are seeing.

Here is the latest gif of a sea cucumber. 

And here is a shark NOAA posted for Earth Day.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab