New Jellyfish

March 12, 2023
By Damond Benningfield


Many new species are being discovered in the “midnight zone” of the ocean, including this recent discovery of a jellyfish in the Atolla family. Credit: Matsumoto et al. (2022).

Like an attic that hasn’t been explored in decades, the deep ocean is a big mystery. It’s inhabited by many species of life that we’ve never seen—perhaps millions of them. Yet scientists are picking through the stacks and boxes—finding new species all the time.

An example is a possible species of jellyfish deep in Monterey Bay, off the coast of California. Although scientists are still analyzing its DNA to confirm that it’s a new species, they’ve already given it a name: Atolla reynoldsi.

It was first seen in 2014, in pictures from a robotic camera, which was exploring the deep ocean, a mile or more down. The scientists then looked for it in earlier images, and kept an eye out for more examples as they continued to explore the bay. They found 10 examples in all, including a few they brought to the surface.

The jelly looks like it belongs to the Atolla family of jellyfish. All of them have a round, flat body. Some have a single tentacle that trails behind them.

Atolla reynoldsi is a little bigger than the others—up to five inches across. It looks like a wide, flat bottle cap. There’s a cross in the middle of its see-through body—its internal organs. It doesn’t have a long tentacle, but it has two or three dozen short ones. They look like curly hairs around the rim of the body—the profile of a newly discovered species of life. Biologists also found two more possible new species of Atolla—discoveries from the “attic” of the deep ocean.