The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) announced a remarkable discovery earlier this month: a new species of jelly. Atolla, a genus of deep-sea crown jellyfish, is commonly seen on ROV footage taken in the ocean depths, but a brand new Atolla species was discovered in Monterey Bay on the coast of California and only recently described in the scientific literature.

The new species was named Atolla reynoldsi, honoring Jeff Reynolds, a devoted volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium since 1984.

Crown jellyfish are aptly named after their circular headdress shape and Atolla are a species of crown jellyfish usually identified by a long trailing tentacle. This distinct 'tail', known as the hypertrophied tentacle, is, however, absent in the Atolla reynoldsi which has made it difficult for scientists to place the species.

Atolla are bioluminescent red jellies and are common in deep waters all around the world; there has even been evidence of them inhabiting the midnight zone, 1000 to 4000 metres below the surface. Although Atolla are commonly seen worldwide, Atolla reynoldsi has only been recorded in the Monterey area thus far.

Atolla reynoldsi is one of millions of species waiting to be found in the surreal depths of our oceans. Discoveries like these open doors to new research that is fundamental in ocean conservation. MBARI research specialist, George Matsumoto, explained, “We cannot protect life in the deep sea unless we understand it first.”

Header image: MBARI