An extraordinarily rare giant phantom jellyfish, which can stretch a huge 30 feet in length, has been caught on camera.
The photographs of the mysterious deep-sea creature were captured on a submersible dive hundreds of feet underwater off the coast of Antarctica’s Rongé Island.
There have been fewer than 126 sightings of the giant phantom jellyfish, or Stygiomedusa gigantea, since the species was first described in 1910. This is just the second time in as many years that the phantom jellyfish has been caught on camera. In 2021, researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institude (MBARI) also shot footage of an example of the giant creature, which it says it only had captured footage of nine times over thousands of dives.
The photos of the elusive sea creature were taken during the Viking Expedition Team’s inaugural season in Antarctica in early 2022.
However, the images were revealed for the first time by the Viking team last month in a paper published in the journal Polar Research of the Norwegian Polar Institute.
The paper describes how remote submersibles allow the science community to access under-explored waters and capture images of rarely-seen creatures like the phantom jellyfish in their natural habitat.
“It is extraordinary that we know so little about such large marine creatures as the giant phantom jellyfish, however now we have the means to make regular observations at greater depths than previously possible, which provides an exciting opportunity for discovery,” author and marine biologist Dr. Daniel Moore writes.
The giant phantom jelly is thought to lurk anywhere from the water’s surface to a depth of 21,900 feet feeding on plankton and small fishes.
Water pressure reaches up to 5,800 pounds per square inch at these depths, but the phantom jellyfish can survive these tremendous pressures because their soft gelatinous bodies absorb them.
The bell of the phantom jellyfish is an enormous 3.3 feet wide while its “mouth-arms” can grow to around 33 feet in length.
While little is known about these marine animals, scientists believe that the giant phantom jellyfish uses its mouth-arms to trap prey and haul them up to its mouth.
It is believed that the sea creature propels itself through the water through periodic pulses which stem from its glowing orange bell-shaped head.
In January, a pair of divers made another rare underwater sighting when they captured the moment they came face-to-face with a giant squid — which are rarely seen alive by humans.
The huge creature was spotted when the individuals were diving off the coast of Toyooka City in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan.
Image credits: All photos sourced from Moore D. M., Flink A. E., Prendergast E., & Gilbert A. (2023). “Personal submersibles offer novel ecological research access to Antarctic waters: an example, with observations of the rarely encountered scyphozoan Stygiomedusa gigantea” in Polar Research, 42.