‘Snotty’ jellyfish a new Australian species

By Bec Crew | February 10, 2014

A new jellyfish species that found in Tasmania is the biggest in Australia.

Contributor

Bec Crew

Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.

IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE a pool of toxic waste, but that’s not the only reason this sludgy specimen has caught everyone’s attention: it’s a new species of jellyfish that has never been named or formally described.

Found by the Lim family on a beach in Howden, which is just south of Hobart, this 1.5m-long jellyfish isn’t deadly, but has enough venom to give someone a good sting if they got too close.

CSIRO jellyfish expert Lisa-Anne Gershwin is now tasked with figuring out where it sits in the Semaeostomeae (literally meaning ‘flag mouth’) order of large jellyfish that share the characteristics of a dome-shaped bell, eight tentacles, and four long, frilly ‘oral arms’ located around their mouths. These oral arms are how these jellies hold onto their stinging cells, or cnidocysts.

New jellyfish will take a while to name

While it’ll take some time to classify the creature, Gershwin suspects that it’s a new species of lion’s mane jellyfish. So far there’s only one known lion’s mane jellyfish, called Cyanea capillata, and with a bell that can grow to over 2m in diameter, it’s the largest known species of jellyfish in the world.

C. capillata is found in the Arctic, northern Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, but certain specimens have been washing up on Australian and New Zealand shores over the past few years to hint at the possibility that we could have our own unique species of lion’s mane jellies, lurking in cold ocean areas at no more than 20m deep.

The lion’s mane jellyfish sports masses of fine tentacles that look like tangled tresses hanging down from its enormous bell. These tentacles can stretch as long as 30m, and a single lion’s man typically has over 800 tentacles, grouped into eight clusters.

Talking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Gershwin revealed that she’s currently working on describing three new species of lion’s manes from southern Tasmania, including this one. Right now it’s been nicknamed ‘snotty’, till she comes up with a more dignified moniker for it.