Off the coast of California, in Monterey Bay, a team of MBARI scientists have found a red jelly species that has not been described before – the Atolla reynoldsi. While Atolla jellies which have one trailing tentacle can commonly be seen in the midnight zone at depths of 1,000 to 4,000m, the new jelly has no tentacles at all.
“We realised that we had found an unusual jelly around 2014 and went back through our records to find a few additional observations,” explained George Matsumoto, MBARI senior education and research specialist to The Guardian. “We also kept an eye out for additional sightings so that we could obtain specimens to examine and deposit at the California Academy of Sciences,” he continued.
The team of scientists determined that the jelly without the tentacle was an entirely new species which they called the Atolla reynoldsi in a research paper published last month. The scientists found that Atolla reynoldsi is larger than other Atollas, with the largest specimen measuring 13cm in diameter. As the team observed only ten Atolla reynoldsi between April 2006 and June 2021, the team also established that the species is not as common as other Atolla types.
Interestingly, it is believed that two other unknown Atolla species exist in Monterey Bay alongside the ten Atolla types that have already been officially described. The team around Matsumoto therefore hopes to use DNA identification to describe these two new Atolla species in the future.
He said: “We have seen even fewer of these than our recent new species so we need to wait to find some more samples before we can definitely say that they are also new species.”
“We hope that by publishing images and videos that our colleagues around the world will keep their eyes open for these undescribed types,” he continued.
These exciting MBARI findings are yet another reminder of how little we know about the species living in the deep sea. Noaa, for example, estimates that only 10% of species in the ocean are currently described. At the same time, deepwater drilling projects, climate change and pollution pose serious threats to deep sea marine environments.
Matsumoto said: “We, collectively the human population, need to spend more time and funds exploring and learning about the ocean – the largest habitat on Earth. It is difficult to protect or preserve an ecosystem when we don’t know who lives in that system or how they interact with each other – and humans are already having an impact on the ocean.”
See a video of MBARI’s research mission here.
For more from our Ocean Newsroom, click here.
Photography courtesy of Unsplash (cover) & 2014 MBARI.