Everyone likes a good sea creature – the weirder, the better. This ethereal, deep-sea fella certainly is that in bagfuls, even looking like a luminous knapsack itself. To make matters even more arresting, a brilliant red creature is seen clinging onto and possibly munching on its companion’s larger, sheet-like jelly.
The eye-catching jellyfish is called a Deepstaria, discovered 790 meters (nearly 2,600 feet) down in the enigmatic depths of the Pacific Ocean. The red critter is an isopod – a relative of the pillbug – that is known as a bottom-feeding crustacean. The relationship between the two deep-sea creatures is unknown for certain, but it is thought the isopod either eats Deepstaria’s jelly or else hides from predators within its delicate bell.
Deepstaria themselves do not have tentacles to catch prey, instead enveloping prey that drift by in their membrane-like umbrella. Other than that, little is known about them. The mystery of how they reproduce, digest their food, and survive at the depths of the ocean remain a mystery. That’s not to say researchers don’t have their theories.
"The geometric mesh pattern is an intricate network of canals that lead back to its stomach at the top of the bell," write the Nautilus. "As the jelly can reach a large size when inflated, these channels help distribute nutrients across the entire expanse."
David Gruber and his team reported in 2018 on a "Deepstaria 'jelly-fall’ carcass with a high density of crustaceans feeding on its tissue and surrounding the carcass," providing them with evidence that Deepstaria are a significant food source in the deep sea.
"Whereas Deepstaria enigmatica has been known for almost half a century and is one of the larger deep-sea predators, it remains largely unstudied. Its biology, behavior, distribution, and abundance remain relatively unknown."
The movement of the Deepstaria is due in part to the currents created by the ROV Hercules' thrusters as it captures the moment in all its glory. Check out another Nautilus Deepstaria discovery, a piglet squid, and a jellyfish that looks like a firework display in the depths of Earth’s oceans.