Australians can get excited about pretty much anything, which is part of why I like them so much. And right now, Australians — okay, maybe mostly Australian scientists — are excited about jellyfish.
A new species of giant jellyfish was found last week in Tasmania. It looks more like ectoplasm than an animal, and has been described in the media as “snotty,” which helps conjure up a lovely image. Experts know that the species is somewhere in the Semaeostomeae order (that’s “flag mouth” for us lay people), which contains big, dome-shaped jellyfish with eight tentacles and four “oral arms” with stinging cells near their mouths. This thing just gets better and better! Those stinging cells make for pretty unpleasant contact, but hey, they won’t kill you, so that’s something.
Classifying and naming the creature will take a while, but experts think it’s the second species of the rare “lion’s mane” jellyfish, which are the largest in the world — their domes can have diameters of more than two meters. Dubbed “lion’s mane” for its hair-like tentacles, these jellyfish sport some serious appendages — about 800 tentacles per jellyfish, all of which can stretch 30 meters. The other species, Cyanea capillata, generally lives in the Arctic, Pacific, and north Atlantic, but has been spotted in Australian and New Zealand a few times over the past couple years, and now it seems that there’s another similar species out here — or perhaps more than one, as experts believe there may be as many as three additional species of jellyfish.
Speaking of other species of jellyfish, another one’s making the news in Australia. This one, the Crambione cookii (me want cookii!), was discovered in the late 1800s off the Queensland coast, but then no one saw it again for a century, probably because it was hanging out with the Kraken.
Aside from a sketch from back then, there were no photos until nature photographer Puk Scivyer snapped pictures of a dead one in 1999, and those were only recently published. Scivyer spotted the shy jellyfish again late last year, and this time it was alive. I think the jellyfish wants to be friends. Or, more likely, until those photographs became news, people didn’t realize the jellyfish was rare. Since the publication of the photos, many other people have sent in their photos of the cauliflower-like Crambione cookii. Scivyer scooped up the jellyfish for further study at Underwater World and noticed that it had nine little fish living in its tentacles. But the next day, there were dozens of fish in the tank with the jelly, and then next day about 50. All in all, the jelly had 76 fish and a few crustaceans inhabiting his dome, and instead of avoiding the stingers, they all seemed to be nestling into it. Moreover, none of them were clownfish, which are known for getting close with anemones and other poisonous, stinging sea creatures.
Experts think that this jelly might be related to the snotty Lion’s Mane species. But I’m sure it will want to escape that description.