This ghostly giant is a rare creature to see. In November 2021, MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) researchers found this giant phantom jelly (Stygiomedusa gigantea) with the ROV Doc Ricketts 990 meters (3,200 feet) deep in Monterey Bay. The bell of this deep-sea denizen is more than one meter (3.3 feet) across and trails four ribbon-like oral (or mouth) arms that can develop more than 10 meters (33 feet) in length. MBARI’s ROVs have done thousands of dives, yet they have only seen this stunning species nine times.
The giant phantom jelly was first found in 1899. Since then, scientists have only discovered this animal about 100 times. It appears to have a worldwide distribution and has been recorded in all ocean basins except for the Arctic. The challenges of accessing its deep-water habitat contribute to the relative scarcity of sightings for such a large and broadly distributed species.
Historically, scientists depended on trawl nets to study deep-sea animals. These nets can be useful for studying hardy animals such as fishes, crustaceans, and squids, but jellies turn to gelatinous goo in trawl nets. The cameras on MBARI’s ROVs have let MBARI researchers study these animals intact in their natural habitat. High-definition—and now 4K—video of the giant phantom jelly captures astonishing details about the animal’s build and behaviors that scientists would not have been able to see with a trawl-caught sample.
You can learn more about the Giant Phantom Jelly here.