Senior Editor

The Inertia

There are some supremely strange things living in the ocean. Nomura’s jellies, oarfish, blobfish, goblin sharks… all very strange, to say the least. All very interesting. And researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) recently captured rare footage of one of the strangest and most interesting: the giant phantom jelly.

The enormous jellyfish was seen in the deep waters of Monterey Bay in California. The creature, which was first officially documented in 1899, has only been filmed nine times over the course of thousands and thousands of dives in Monterey Bay. In total, it’s only been seen about a hundred times globally. “Even now, scientists still know very little about this animal,” the research institute wrote.

The mysterious animal lives anywhere from surface level to 21,900 feet, but mostly sticks to a zone called the midnight zone, which is too deep for most light to reach. It is assumed that they feed on plankton and small fishes. The one you see in the video above was filmed by an ROV at 3,200 feet down, and it is, as the name implies, giant. Its bell is over three feet across, and the “arms”, can be up to 33 feet.


According to the scientists, giant phantom jellies appear to be in all oceans except for the Arctic. “The challenges of accessing its deep-water habitat contribute to the relative scarcity of sightings for such a large and broadly distributed species,” they wrote.

In the past, scientists studying the deep sea had to rely mostly on trawl nets. Since jellyfish are gelatinous, they had a hard time getting one up intact. But the cameras on MBARI’s ROV allow the researchers to study them in their natural habitat. The footage allows them to learn “details about the animal’s appearance and behaviors that scientists would not have been able to see with a trawl-caught specimen.”


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