Once again, the ROV cameras aboard Okeanos Explorer, have captured something magnificent in the depths of the ocean. This as yet unidentified jelly, filmed 3,700 metres beneath the waves, was spotted near the Mariana Archipelego's Enigma Seamount – and an enigma it is indeed!
Scientists have managed to pin down this hydromedusa's genus (Crossota) but the exact species remains a mystery. Like many other animals filmed at extreme depths, the medusa looks more fantasy than reality. In fact, the animal's stark colouration and wiry frame remind us of something conjured up on a certain free computer programme. So while the experts work on a more official moniker, we suggest a temporary placeholder: the "Microsoft Paint" jelly.
If you're too young to remember the frustration of trying to draw a straight line in MSP, we offer you this masterpiece:
The footage comes our way from one of three planned cruises on Okeanos's current mission to explore the poorly understood waters around the Mariana Trench. At an impressive 10,994 metres (6,831 miles) top to bottom, Mariana is an established record-setter – but there is much waiting to be discovered around the chasm, the team explains.
"When most people think of the deep sea around the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, they immediately think 'the deepest part of the ocean.' And while the Mariana Trench is amazingly cool, there are other equally awesome habitats within the monument, such as hydrothermal vents."
The hope is that this expedition will help us identify and better understand some of these habitats, and the geological phenomena that drive them. We're talking extreme life, enormous mud volcanoes and deep-sea coral beds (to name a few).
Hydromedusae aren't "true jellyfish", and tend to be significantly smaller than their better-known cousins. Their life cycles typically alternate between a bottom-dwelling colonial stage (in which the colony resembles an anemone or coral) and a free-swimming medusa stage like the one you see here. The baby jellies that bud off the ends of these coral-like colonies go on to produce fertilised eggs that settle to the seabed, completing the cycle as a new colony.
As for the "MSP" jelly's motionless floating, the stance suggests an ambush hunting mode (as the longest two sets of tentacles are extended outward, ready to zap any tasty passers-by). And if you were wondering, those yellow balls in the centre of the bell are (wait for it) the animal's gonads.
Thought official word on the species has yet to surface, the Okeanos team will be keeping us posted as more information comes to light. We'll be circling back with scientists on the ship over the coming days, so watch this space!
Keep up with the mission in real time by watching the live feeds here.