Plants and Animals

Vivid Purple Jellyfish May Be A New Species

May 21, 2014 | by Justine Alford

Photo credit: Coolum Beach Surf and Life Saving Club/AAP

A vivid purple jellyfish that washed up on the shores of Coolum Beach, Queensland, early Wednesday morning could be a previously undiscovered species.

This striking and unusual jellyfish was first spotted by a fisherman who alerted on-duty lifeguards Jamie Smith and Mick Daly, who then handed over the specimen to scientists at Underwater World. According to Smith, the head is around the size of a dinner plate and the tentacles are about a meter long. “It’s a very vibrant looking jellyfish. It’s pure purple,” he told Brisbane Times.

Image credit: Jamie Smith/ Coolum Beach Surf and Life Saving Club/AAP

The enigmatic jellyfish has sparked interest in marine biologist Dr Lisa Gershwin from the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Centre, who has her suspicions that it may represent a new species. “It’s straight out of science fiction,” she told the GuardianExaminations are currently underway by a jellyfish expert from Sea Life Mooloolaba to classify the specimen.

According to Gershwin, the jellyfish likely belongs to the genus Thysanostoma. These are usually brown or beige and prefer warmer waters, making this case particularly unusual. She also thinks it’s unlikely that the jellyfish gained its vivid color by eating or contacting something. “It begs the question, if it’s such a vibrant, different color, what other features does it have?” she added.

Another telltale sign that this jellyfish is a Thysanostoma is the fact that the tentacles are covered in characteristic tiny mouths which serve to increase the amount of plankton that can be consumed.

“The fact that this jellyfish is big, the fact that it’s been found in a different locality and the fact that it’s a spectacularly different color… makes me wonder whether this really is a new species,” said Gershwin. “It’s really exciting.” 

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