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A New Species of Jellyfish Surfaces

Monterey marine biologists identify the unusually large deep-sea denizen.

May 10, 2003|Robert Lee Hotz | Times Staff Writer

In the abyss of the Monterey Submarine Canyon, where vampire squid and football fish squiggle, marine biologists identified a new species of jellyfish -- a giant, blood-red creature 3 feet in diameter that pulses through the darkness in search of prey.

The unusually large jellyfish was found by marine biologist George Matsumoto and his colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Since researchers got their first fleeting glimpse of the creature in 1993, they have spotted 23 specimens in Monterey Bay, the Sea of Cortez, Hawaii, Japan and the Farallon Islands near San Francisco.

Known officially as Tiburonia granrojo -- "Big Red" -- the deep-sea denizen is so different from other jellyfish that researchers consider it not just a new species and genus but an entirely new sub-family of marine creatures.

Unlike most jellyfish, it has no diaphanous tentacles. It grasps its prey with seven stubby muscular arms.

The creature lives at depths of 2,000 feet to 4,800 feet, where researchers watched its habits using video cameras aboard remotely operated diving vehicles.

"Diving almost every day, we tend to take for granted some of the unusual and even bizarre animals that we see in the deep ocean," said Matsumoto, who reported the findings recently in the online edition of the journal Marine Biology.

"This just shows that we need to keep our eyes open," he said, "because there's still plenty to discover down there."

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