Mysterious Jellyfish Found in Remote Pacific Depths

No, that’s not a face-hugger from the Alien films you see on your screen, but it sure is bizarre! Our team was stumped when we encountered this mysterious gelatinous creature while diving on a previously unexplored guyot north-northwest of Kingman Reef. One of our experts initially guessed it could be a helmet jellyfish (with missing tentacles), but thanks to our expert, global Scientist Ashore network - connected to the ship via telepresence technologies - we have solved the mystery! 

Midwater expert Dr. Dhugal Lindsay helped us to identify this jellyfish as a member of the order Narcomedusae, and an undescribed species within the genus Bathykorus. This is only the second encounter with this animal, first spotted by NOAA Ocean Exploration’s ship Okeanos Explorer in 2015. Using the rays on top of the bell, we believe this animal likely eats other gelatinous animals like jellies and/or swimming sea cucumbers. Different from all other species in the genus, the animal’s brown color indicates to experts that this is a predator of bioluminescent prey. You never know what we’ll find when exploring the deep ocean in the Pacific Remote Islands! 

The US waters surrounding Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll are home to some of Earth’s most pristine marine ecosystems. While recent expeditions have increased our baseline knowledge of the deep-water resources of this region, large areas remain completely unexplored, particularly areas north of the Kingman/Palmyra Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Further explorations of these areas are urgently needed to address the management and science needs of the region as a monument management plan is under development, including a better understanding of the deep-water natural and cultural resources here, biogeographic patterns of species distributions, and the geological context of the region. 

Learn more about this expedition funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration via the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute.