Rare Photos of Giant Phantom Jellyfish from 3,200 Feet Under the Sea

Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently captured footage of a huge phantom jellyfish. This species is extremely rare and has been seen only nine times in thousands of dives.

MBARI’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV Doc Ricketts spotted a “billowing curtain” of giant phantom jellyfish. The Institute described it as a “billowing, crimson curtain,” and four ribbon-like mouth (or oral) arms can reach more than 10 metres (33 feet). MBARI claims it has dived thousands of times, but this species has been only seen nine times.

giant phantom jellyfish
giant phantom jellyfish
giant phantom jellyfish

MBARI states that the first phantom jelly was found in 1899. However, scientists have only seen the jellyfish approximately 100 times since then. Scientists first recognized the animal as a new species in 1859. However, very little information is available about it today. The magnificent deep-sea creature has been documented in every ocean except the Arctic. MBARI believes that deep-sea exploration has made it difficult to see this large and widely distributed jellyfish species.

giant phantom jellyfish
giant phantom jellyfish
giant phantom jellyfish

To study deep-sea creatures, scientists used trawl nets in the past. MBARI notes that these nets are effective in studying hardy animals like fishes, crustaceans and squids. However, jellies can turn to gelatinous goo when used with trawlnets.

MBARI researchers were able to observe these animals in their natural habitat thanks to the ROV cameras. The 4K video of the giant phantom jellies captures amazing details about their appearance and behavior that scientists wouldn’t have been able see with a trawl-caught specimen.

giant phantom jellyfish
giant phantom jellyfish
giant phantom jellyfish
giant phantom jellyfish

Although the giant phantom jelly is able to live anywhere from the surface to 21,900 feet, it is more common to be found in the midnight or midwater zone (bathypelagic zones). This is the oceanic layer at depths ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 metres (3,280 to 13,120 feet). It doesn’t get sunlight and the water pressure is high. Although it is speculation, giant phantom jellies may eat plankton and small fish.

Researchers were accompanied by a fish called the Pelagic Brotula (Thalassobathiapelagica). It hovered over the bell of the jelly, and then swam around the large oral arms.

MBARI states that the wide-open waters of midnight zone offer little shelter. Many creatures seek refuge in the gelatinous animal communities that are abundant in this area.

Amazing footage and photos are shown. MBARI’s website has a feature about the giant phantom jelly and a page dedicated all the amazing creatures it has found.