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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Jellyfish

Jellyfish is known to be on earth even before the dinosaurs. These fascinating marine creatures are known to live in the oceans all over the world. In the past 20 years alone, scientists were able to discover 50 new species of jellies, by using scuba, manned and unmanned submersibles. There are 200 known species of jellyfish now, but recently, new species are being discovered around the world.

Researchers have identified a new species of jellyfish in the Monterey Submarine Canyon at a depth of 2,100 feet. They found a blood-red gelatinous ball measuring between 2 and 3 feet in diameter. It is an unusual and bizarre jellyfish, as it does not have any tentacles, but has between 4 and 7 short thick arms. Scientists believe this to be the first member of a new sub-family of jellyfish. This species has been named Tiburonia granrojo, and granrojo means "big red" in Spanish. It floats in the deep ocean waters and is a predator which devours its prey. Still not much is known about what it feeds on, and what it does. This jelly has been spotted more than 24 times, off the coast of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. They have been also spotted in Japanese waters by scientists at the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center.

The big red as it is now popularly called, captures its prey with the help of its fleshy arms. The number of arms, are known to differ between individual big reds. These jellies live at a depth of 650 to 1500 meters. It has taken scientists quite some time to classify this species and confirm that it indeed was a discovery of a new species.

A very recent discovery is by Lisa Gershwin who is a jellyfish expert. She was swimming near a jetty, off the coast of Tasmania, which is an Australian island, and came across a new jellyfish species which was luminous. This jellyfish does not emit its own light, but the rainbow glow emanates, from light reflected off the creature's cilia, which are hair-like projections that help this jellyfish to move through the water. The jellyfish is 5 inches long and is very fragile, as it shatters as soon as it touches a net. Studying this type of jellyfish, we might come to know how they are able to survive over long periods of time and how they respond to climate change in the future. This new species also belongs to Ctenophora, which are strange and not so well known group of animals. These pale orange color jellyfish do not sting, and initial examinations are indicating that they belong to the genus of Leucothea.

Another discovery made by Lisa Gershwin was in the seashore tank of Townsville aquarium. She found this tiny snout which was the size of a grain of rice. To everybody's surprise it was a jellyfish that looked like a flatworm. It belongs to the Coeloplana family, and is about a centimeter long. The mouth of this jellyfish is on its underside and the anus is wrapped around its brain. It cannot swim and it just glides along the bottom.

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