Chirodectes maculatus is a jellyfish species that’s seen super-rarely. And I really mean super-rarely: it has only been documented twice so far. So, when this incredible creature was captured on camera, it was quite exciting. A diver managed to film it off the coast of Papua New Guinea, and the video is as spectacular as the jellyfish itself.
This jellyfish is a part of the box jellyfish family. While most of them are venomous, even deadly to humans, this particular one isn’t harmful. It’s normally found off the coast of Queensland, Australia and it was first described in 2005. A team of Australian scientists caught one in 1997 and preserved it, and another scientist classified it a year later. And believe it or not, that time in 1997 and this video now are the two only sightings of this jellyfish we know about so far.
“It has cool markings and is a bit bigger than a soccer ball and they are quite fast swimming,” the diver describes the jellyfish in a Facebook video. It has four groups of colorful tentacles and markings that almost look like those of a leopard. But the markings are on a translucent body, so we can see the jellyfish’s bright red organ in the middle, most likely its gastrovascular cavity. Pretty cool!
“It is not possible to make out all of the characters of the species Chirodectes maculatus from the video (some are internal),” zoologist Dr. Allen Collins told Motherboard. “But it certainly fits very well based on what one can observe.” He added, though, that the color pattern on the jellyfish’s bell in the video was different from the one described by the scientists in 2005. “The jellyfish from 2005 had solid spots, while the one in the video had rings,” Motherboard writes. So, there’s actually a chance that this particular specimen is from a “closely related but as yet undescribed species of Chirodectes,” according to Collins. Still, he says that he would lean toward it being C. maculatus.
“That something so large and conspicuous in appearance would only be seen twice is pretty surprising,” Collins said. “But that said, a lot of diversity is rare. It tells me that we still have a lot of exploration to undertake.” And to have one of the two only sightings in a good-quality video… That’s really something, isn’t it?