This post could go a few ways. I could start by saying, wow, the ocean is incredible. Or perhaps I could start by saying I hope you didn’t plan to sleep tonight. That’s because the giant phantom jelly captured by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is a bit of a Rorschach test, one that can inspire awe and terror because, well, I mean look at it.
We can start out with points in favor of the giant phantom jellyfish being a cool-ass jelly. The giant phantom jelly has been seen in the wild about 100 times since it was first discovered by humans in 1899. This is the ninth encounter MBARI researchers have had with it despite doing thousands of dives using a remote-operated vehicle.
That’s an impressive track record of stealth given that it lives in every ocean basin save the Arctic. Of course, this is also cause for terror. For all I know, this jellyfish may drag me off into the deep next time I visit Coney Island.
Wait, sorry I’m getting away from myself. Cool facts, cool facts, cool facts. Right. OK. So this jellyfish also lives in what’s known as the “midnight zone,” a location in the water column that’s not quite the twilight zone or the abyss. That’s a sweet spot between 3,300 and 13,000 feet (1,000 to 4,000 meters) below the surface. No sunlight reaches this depth of the ocean, which is frankly terrifying to think of in the context of a ghostly jellyfish at a depth of the ocean where nobody could hear you scream as you dragged into the murky depths.
Dammit, I did it again. My focus is usually better than this. We’re getting this back on track with amazing jelly facts. The giant phantom jellyfish lives up to the first part of its name. We’re talking 10-foot (3-meter) tentacles and a 3-foot (1-meter) bell. That’s not lion’s mane jelly big, what with their 120-foot (37-meter) tangle of tentacles.
But then, a plume of 10-foot tentacles that look like strips of paper is ample enough to envelop the body of a man while a 3-foot bell could easily hold a human head, slowly devouring the flesh until only the bones are left to drift into the abyss where bizarre creatures would pick them over to capture what little sustenance remains.
My apologies, I really don’t know why this is so hard for me. As someone who loves nature, this should be easy. Piece of cake, really. MBARI researchers have observed fish swimming near the jelly. Which, OK, see. That’s nice! The midnight zone offers little cover for sea creatures. The giant phantom jellyfish offers a form of cover, allowing smaller fish to hide from larger predators. In 2003, MBARI’s ROV captured footage of an eel-like fish known as the brotula with, researchers wrote, “its belly against the jelly.” What an incredibly adorable turn of phrase.
We’re on a roll. Let’s see what else we got. Ah yes, the giant phantom jelly’s arms act like a mouth. OK, sorry that’s just straight-up the plot of a horror movie. I’m out.