"Extremely Rare" Sea Creature Leaves Scientists Baffled


| LAST UPDATE 12/12/2021

By Sharon Renee
giant phantom jellyfish found
Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images

With the majority of our oceans still unexplored, it's hard to imagine the creatures that lurk beneath its depths. Look no further than the giant phantom jellyfish - an extremely rare creature recently spotted off the coast of California. From its massive size to its mouth-like arms, here's why its sighting has left scientists amazed.

It all started when researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) took to their Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts like every other day. Only this time was different: lurking 3,000+ miles below the surface, the phantom jellyfish floating before them was like nothing they'd ever seen before. And perhaps with good reason...

Roughly half the size of a London double-decker bus, the giant phantom boasts ribbon-like oral arms that can grow up to 33 feet. But that's not the only reason MBARI scientists were left baffled: the rare species can typically be found in the "twilight zone," a mysterious area beyond the reach of sunlight. And while the team of deep-sea researchers has previously logged thousands of dives, they've only spotted the phantom jellyfish a handful of times.

phantom jellyfish rare creatures

"The first specimen of the giant phantom jelly was collected in 1899," MBARI explained. Since then, the rare species has only been caught on camera about nine times. "Even now, scientists still know very little about this animal." While the haunting creature traps its prey using its mouth-like arms, just about everything else remains a mystery. For now, at least. Thanks to today's cutting-edge technology, the scientific community is hopeful they'll be able to change that.

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"The cameras on MBARI's ROVs have allowed MBARI researchers to study these animals intact in their natural environment," the team further noted. "High-definition—and now 4K—video of the giant phantom jelly captures stunning details about the animal's appearance and behaviors that scientists would not have been able to see with a trawl-caught specimen." Clearly, there's still a lot to be discovered. And with innovations to technology constantly underway, who knows what else awaits us?

Want to know more? You can check out the complete MBARI study for further details.