Mysterious Technicolor Jellies

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It’s been a colorful week in new jelly species. News media in Australia has been abuzz with stories of a crayon-purple jellyfish that’s been washing up on beaches from the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane to Port Macquarie, half way to Sydney. The peculiar jelly has a bell about the size of a dinner plate and thin mouth-arms that stretch three feet. These idiosyncratic appendages make Lisa-ann Gershwin, one of Australia’s most prominent taxonomists, think it could be a new species in the genus Thysanostoma. But the coloring is curious, she says, most members have a brownish ombre.

On the other side of the world, researchers from Italy have ID’ed a golden jellyfish as Pelagia benovici, which means it’s the only cousin of the mauve stinger that’s plagued French and Spanish coasts, as well as decimated salmon farms in Ireland. Last winter, this animal bloomed profusely near Venice, with thousands at a time pulled up in fishermen’s nets. Like it’s menacing cousin, the golden jellyfish has dispensed with the stay-at-home life stage called a polyp, which is typical of jellyfish, and instead lives its entire life adrift at sea. The researchers suspect that the animal was introduced to the Mediterranean through ballast water of ships docking at the port of Venice. Exactly where those ships took on their flaxen passengers remains a mystery.

golden jelly

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