A somehow eerie-looking cosmic jellyfish along with other biological curiosities have been discovered by biologists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in their latest dive in the remote American Samoa region of the Pacific.
Onboard the NOAA research ship Okeanos Explorer, the team had been conducting research at the Utu Seamount, with the mission to hold one of the first expansive explorations of the 13,581-square mile marine sanctuary where the seamount belongs.
Hello, Cosmic Jellyfish
Dubbed the 2017 American Samoa Expedition, the three-year campaign will gather crucial scientific data in and around the protected areas. American Samoa stands out as a biodiversity hotspot, with its three marine sanctuaries a site for protecting massive coral and deepwater reefs and even archeological artifacts.
“Much remains unknown about the deep-sea habitats and geology in and around these protected places,” NOAA team member and molecular ecologist Santiago Herrera said in a Gizmodo report.
There is also much to be known about the Samoa Islands and seamounts forming an “age-progressive volcanic hotspot.” Volcanoes on the east are young while those in the west are progressively older, and it remains unclear how Samoan volcanoes evolve over time.
“This expedition will sample various volcanoes at different stages in their development, including the young active volcano, Vailulu’u, and the older Samoan volcanic feature that defines the island of Tutuila,” the group stated in its mission plan.
The sea dives, conducted from Feb. 16 to 26, used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to unravel a number of new biological finds, including cosmic jellyfish, Venus flytrap anemone, and a range of mollusks.
The translucent, UFO-like jellyfish, imaged during their first dive, appeared to have rows of tentacles that face up and down and were likely useful in catching prey. It hovered through the deep and dark ocean, with its digestive system in a red color and its reproductive organs in yellow.
Further investigations will be done to determine if the cosmic jellyfish is a new species or not.
Welcome Discoveries Under The Sea
A hydroid was also spotted making rounds in Leoso Seamount, a place straddling the boundary from the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the American Samoa to the Cook Islands EEZ. Also alien-resembling in appearance, it is a close relative of many jellyfish species and attaches itself to rock while snatching floating food through a two-tier tentacle mouth.
The researchers uncovered at least a dozen potentially new species made up of sponges, sea stars, corals, and other creatures they took samples of. The collections, according to Herrera, will set new species designations if needed, as well as enable DNA analyses for greater insight into biological relationships and evolutions among similar species.
The NOAA presents photos and videos of their amazing finds online for the public to see and relish.
Remember the glowing purple bob discovered by E/V Nautilus ship scientists deep beneath California waters last year? The googly-eyed squid, first thought to be a cuttlefish, actually was a stubby squid (Rossia pacifica) and looked like a cross between a squid and octopus.
As for its strange eyes, scientists explained that the animal activates a sticky mucus jacket as it burrows deep into the sediment to camouflage – resulting in eyes poking out to spot its prey, which includes small fish and shrimp.