SCIENCE

Rare Video Of Giant Jellyfish Is Out Of This World

"It is, in fact, the best video of this species I have ever seen," scientist says.

Eerie footage of a rarely seen species of giant jellyfish shows the creature in its deep-sea habitat.

Stygiomedusa gigantea is a giant jellyfish that may be one of the largest invertebrates to live in the deep ocean. The footage, uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, features the reddish-purple jelly fluttering in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 3,300 feet.

Louisiana State University professor Mark Benfield, who encountered and filmed four different specimens of S. gigantea in the Gulf of Mexico between 2005 and 2009, verified the recent video's authenticity in an email to The Huffington Post on Wednesday.  

Benfield said he's had a high-definition copy of the newly released video "for a long time," but would not elaborate further. It's not immediately clear who filmed the footage, or when, but Benfield said it was not part of his original study. Regardless, he said it's impressive.

"It is, in fact, the best video of this species I have ever seen," Benfield told HuffPost. 

Footage of the jellyfish from Benfield's study can be seen below.

In the 110 years it has been known to science, the jellyfish has only been spotted 115 times. 

Benfield and his team recorded four sightings of S. gigantea as part of the Gulf SERPENT Project, which surveys the deep ocean using remotely operated vehicles known as ROVs. 

"It is surprising that we didn't know such a large animal was there [in the Gulf of Mexico] until we started using industrial ROVs to study deep sea biodiversity through the Gulf SERPENT Project," Benfield said.

Benfield said the giant jellyfish lives in the ocean's bathypelagic zone, between 1000 and 4000 meters (about 3,300 to 13,000 feet) below the surface. 

The "bell" at the top of S. gigantea, known as the medusa, can grow to 4.6 feet wide, and its massive, paddle-like arms have measured nearly 20 feet long in some specimens. Benfield said the jellyfish shares a symbiotic relationship with a species of fish that lives inside its medusa, and that the jellyfish gives live births. 

Unlike the arms of many jellyfish, S. gigantea's appendages lack stinging tentacles, according to the BBC. Researchers aren't sure of their function, but have suggested that the jelly uses its arms to trap its prey. 

"It likely feeds on anything it can encounter that doesn't offer resistance. I suspect it wraps the arms around its prey and digests it," Benfield said.
 
This story has been updated to include additional comments from Mark Benfield.
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