The first, a jellyfish with distinctive ring and spot markings and four groups of striped tentacles, was spotted by a scuba diver who posted the video footage on Scuba Ventures Kavieng’s Facebook page. “It has cool markings and is a bit bigger than a soccer ball,” stated the diver, adding that the jellyfish swam ‘quite fast’. AdvertisementIt is thought by experts that the animal could be Chirodectes maculatus, a type of box jellyfish only ever recorded once before but never seen live or captured on video until now. It was described in 2005 by scientists from a preserved specimen caught in Australian waters, but that jelly had solid spots rather than rings, so could be a different species. Meanwhile the deep-sea sighting was of two Solumbellula monocephalus seapens, although only one was caught on camera. They were spotted just short of 3km deep by Ocean Exploration Trust researchers diving the ROV Hercules from the research vessel Nautilus. They had been investigating deep-sea coral and sponge habitats on a previously unsurveyed seamount north of Johnston Atoll when the sight of the colonial cnidarians caused excitement. The seapens were reckoned to be as big or bigger than the ROV. The one on video can be seen to have a single large feeding polyp and barbed tentacles stretching more than 40cm from its two-metre-long stalk to sting and catch its prey.
“My mind is blown right now,” one of the scientists can be heard saying because the species, the only one described in its genus, had only ever been seen in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans before. The team now hope to determine from the footage whether it was a Pacific Solumbellula or a new species. Johnston Atoll lies between Hawaii, the Line Islands and Kiribati, and is designated as a protected area within the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument. The expedition is funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration via the Ocean Exploration Co-operative Institute.