Jellyfish have always been referred to as a symbol of the beauty and fragility of the ocean. Found everywhere from freshwater to deep sea, these beautiful creatures are not actually fish. Perhaps because of their transparent, jelly-like structure, they have gained fame as “jellyfish”. The water world is full of jellyfish in various sizes. Recently, a rare species of jellyfish called “Pink Meanie” was discovered floating around the Gulf of Mexico with tentacles about 70 feet long and weighing about 50 pounds!
Drymonema Demaria1 eating a moon jellyfish Aurelia
The species was first observed in the year 2000, in the Gulf of Mexico, when it ‘bloomed’ by Monty Graham of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Since then, scientists Dr. Keith Bayha from Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Dr. Michael Dawson from UC Merced have worked together on classifying this species. They checked the genetics and looked at museum specimens, and based on DNA analysis and visual inspection, it was determined that this jellyfish is a new rare species.
It inhabits the coastal Caribbean, the U.S. Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps other parts of the world. It has been named Drymonema Larsoni after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientist Ronald J. Larson who pioneered work on this animal in the early ’80s.
Many say that Drymonema marks the first new scyphozoan or “true jellyfish” discovered since 1921. But the most important fact about this discovery is that it is said to be the first new scyphozoan or true jellyfish family found since 1921. This fact is important as many species have been found since then but no new families.
Preying on other jellyfish, mainly the moon jellyfish, the Pink Meanie may be able to consume 34 jellyfish at a time. “It’s rare that something like this could escape the notice of scientific research for so long… However, much of the project’s success can be tied to the use of molecular techniques, such as DNA sequencing, in addition to more traditional visual examination,” stated Dr. Bayha.
In recent years, there has been a massive increase in jellyfish population because of overfishing, which has caused a decrease in the number of predatory organisms that feed on jellyfish. We have not only disturbed the ocean’s ecosystem, but have also allowed the jellyfish to interfere with public systems. The impact of a jellyfish bloom is not only ecological but economical too.
It has also made clear that we were wrong about the idea of jellyfish being very rare and less in number around the globe. And new studies and research reveal that jellyfish are not only complicated but their complexity might have a great impact on climate change.
Dr. Keith Bayha further adds: “As a rule, jellyfish tend to be relatively understudied compared to other animals, and we are constantly uncovering new information fundamental to our understanding of these interesting animals and how they interact with humans and the marine environment.”
My sincere thanks to Dr. Keith Bayha for sharing information and rare images of the newly found jellyfish.