Amazing Video of Giant Phantom Jellyfish from Deep in the Dark Fathoms at 3,200 Feet
Researchers in California recently captured footage of one of the most striking sea creatures you’ll ever see: Stygiomedusa gigantea, aka the giant phantom jellyfish.
Seen only nine times by the researchers over the span of thousands of dive trips to the lightless depths of the ocean, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) unmanned submersible encountered what scientists described as a “billowing crimson curtain,” and a “ghostly giant.”
Never has a creature been so accurately depicted, and rarely has there been a name so befitting its owner, as the giant phantom jelly, with a three-foot-long head, or bell, and four thirty foot-long tentacles, could substitute a stage curtain in an abstract photo and no-one could tell the difference.
The first specimen ever collected was in 1899, and it’s been seen about a hundred times since. As rare and special as the giant phantom jelly is, it’s widely distributed, capable of living in all oceans bar the Arctic, and at all depths, though it’s typically found between 3,200 and 12,000 feet, in a zone known as the bathypelagic where light can’t reach and the underwater pressure is immense.
Scientists know very little about this amazing animal, but they assume it feeds on plankton or small shrimps. During this particular dive the MBARI’s submersible, called Doc Rickets, spotted a small fish called a brotula hover above the bell of its host and swim in and out of the jelly’s voluminous arms.
“The wide-open waters of the midnight zone offer little shelter, so many creatures find refuge in the gelatinous animals that are abundant in this environment,” the researchers write.
Previously, deep sea specimens could only be studied via trawl net, which has its uses for sturdier creatures like the colossal squid, one of the method’s most famous entanglements, but jellies turn to an unidentifiable mush in a net.
“High-definition—and now 4K—video of the giant phantom jelly captures stunning details about the animal’s appearance and behaviors that scientists would not have been able to see with a trawl-caught specimen.”
Someone had the bright idea to put ominous piano music over the footage, setting Stygiomedusa gigantea in an audio landscape befitting its name and beauty.