Windows to the Deep 2018: Exploration of the Southeast U.S. Continental Margin

Dive 15: Jellyfish

by Dhugal Lindsay, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology
June 29, 2018

Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Windows to the Deep 2018. Download larger version (mp4, 14.9 MB).

This beautiful, big medusa, seen during Dive 15 of the expedition, belongs to the genus Cyanea, which is a group of scyphozoan jellyfishes well-known for their tendency to "bloom" and occur in large numbers in surface waters. They can also be a major food item for leatherback turtles. For many years it was thought that there were only a few, mostly cosmopolitan species, but we now know that many morphotypes are actually valid species in their own right.

In order to be sure of the species, one characteristic to look for is the presence or absence of circular muscle folds with many intrusions arising from the radial gastric canals. However, with the underside of the bell obscured by the many tentacles (counting these is also a good character but one would really have a hard time...), this characteristic is unable to be observed. The bluish coloration in this large individual suggests that it could well be Cyanea lamarckii (PĂ©ron and Lesueur, 1809).

In any case, this observation of the genus in deep waters near the seafloor is very valuable. In recent years, there have been several records of various large scyphomedusan species that are known to bloom in surface waters being found in the near-bottom layers in deep waters. Some of these reported that the medusae were gravid, or laden with babies, and the polyp stages of these medusae have also been found on substrates such as plastic, lying on the deep-sea mud. Shallow and deep waters may not be as separate as we have traditionally considered.

This species of jelly was seen throughout the dive and during the 500-meter water column transect of Dive 15 of the Windows to the Deep 2018 expedition. Images courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Windows to the Deep 2018.