Giant Jellyfish Found By Australian Family On Tasmanian Beach May Be New Species
A family walking along a beach in Tasmania, Australia, has happened upon a washed-up giant jellyfish which may be a new species. (See a photo of the jellyfish here.) Measuring about five feet in diameter and looking something like an enormous, wholly unappetizing pancake, giant jellyfish like this one have been rumored to haunt the waters of Tasmania for a some time. Jellyfish expert Lisa-ann Gershwin of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia's government-run scientific research agency, said she's been hearing giant jellyfish rumors for about a decade.
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"The thing that I first said when I saw [the photograph] was 'Phwoar.' It's a very scientific term," said Gershwin. ("Phwoar" is apparently British slang meaning an "expression of appreciation for an attractive person.") "I'm just rapt by it, honestly. It's such an amazing find."
The giant jellyfish is one of three species found in Tasmania which are (perhaps) lion's mane jellyfish. The largest known jellyfish species, lion's mane jellyfish hang out in cold Arctic waters and the north Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, venturing as far south as the 42nd parallel north (which hits, roughly, New York City and Rome, Italy). If you're playing along at home, you'll realize that Australia is a lot further south than that. In the past few years, Gershwin has collected samples of three species of "snotties" ("Yes snotties, they're a bit slimy," she says), species she believes species are previously unknown types of lion's mane jellyfish which don't live way up in the Arctic.
"It's not new because it's large," Gershwin said of last month's giant jellyfish discovery. "It's new because its structural features are unlike other species, it just so happens that this one is huge...it's the size of a Smart car." In addition to the structural features, Gershwin says that the muscular and tentacle features are also unlike other lion's mane jellyfish.
Gershwin's her next step will be to describe the three jellyfish samples she's collected in a paper in order to have them formally classified.
The largest lion's mane jellyfish ever described was an 1870 specimen that washed ashore on the Massachusetts Bay. The body of that jellyfish measured 7 feet and 6 inches in diameter and had 120-foot tentacles. A photo of an absolutely massive lion's mane jellyfish recently making the internet rounds is fake, and has been fake since 2012.
For non-viral, actually-real reasons, jellyfish have been in the news a fair bit in the past couple of months. Jellyfish populations have exploded, worrying scientists, as large jellyfish populations can be an indicator that ocean ecosystems are out of whack. They can destroy fish populations, and can even wreaked havoc on nuclear power plants. To deal with the jellyfish problem, one team of South Korean scientists have invented a jellyfish-shredding robot. That should do the trick.
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