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Mysterious blood-red jellyfish may be rare species unknown to science, researchers say

The mysteries red jelly may be a new species previously unknown to science, NOAA researchers say.
The mysteries red jelly may be a new species previously unknown to science, NOAA researchers say. (Image credit: NOAA)

Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) may have discovered a previously unknown jellyfish, bobbing along almost 2,300 feet (700 meters) underwater.

Like a floating beret fringed with thin tassels, the jelly in question has a blood-red body and appears to belong to the genus Poralia, the researchers said in a statement. Only one other Poralia species has been described so far — Poralia rufescens, which has a bell-shaped body, 30 tentacles and lives in deep water across the world's oceans.

The NOAA team spotted the as-yet-unnamed jellyfish in footage from a deep-water dive conducted on July 28, off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island. The agency's remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer dove to a maximum depth of about 3,000 feet (915 m) into the North Atlantic Ocean, filming any creatures that it passed.

Quinn Girasek, a NOAA intern studying biology at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, first saw the jellyfish while annotating footage from the dive.

"Overall, a variety of animals were seen, like ctenophores [also called comb jellies], cnidarians, crustaceans and Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)," Girasek said in the statement. "We also saw several undescribed families and potential new species."

This deep dive through the water column was part of NOAA's North Atlantic Stepping Stones expedition, which the team conducted from June 30 through July 29. The team completed 25 dives, at depths ranging from 820 to 13,124 feet (250 to 4,000 m), in order to survey the elusive deep-sea creatures lurking in the area.

Some discoveries from the mission looked shockingly familiar. A few days earlier in the expedition, the team stumbled upon a yellow sea sponge lounging alongside a pink sea star some 6,184 feet (1,885 m) underwater. Christopher Mah, a marine biologist at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, likened the pair to a "real-life SpongeBob and Patrick" when he saw the image on Twitter.

Originally published on Live Science.

Brandon Specktor

Brandon has been a senior writer at Live Science since 2017, and was formerly a staff writer and editor at Reader's Digest magazine. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.