Scientists Recently Spotted A Rare Deep-Sea Jelly That Looks Like A Plastic Bag — And They Captured It On Camera

Earlier this month, the crew aboard the E/V Nautilus were stationed southwest of Baker Island in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. During a dive at approximately 2,500 feet below sea level, one of their remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) captured a rare creature on camera: a Deepstaria jelly. Over the course of several minutes, the jelly undulated in the currents created by the ROV (known as Hercules).

Deepstaria jellies are incredibly rare and few people have had the opportunity to observe them. They are known for moving differently than their better-studied sea jelly cousins that use their tentacles to propel themselves forward. Deepstaria jellies instead use two “oral arms” to maneuver themselves.

Additionally, the Deepstaria jelly’s “bell”, which looks like a plastic bag, is used to capture prey and consists of a network of canals that lead to the jelly’s stomach. Stowing away inside this particular jelly’s bell was a red isopod, which is related to pillbugs. While it is unclear what sort of relationship the isopod has with the Deepstaria jelly, scientists suggest that the isopod may eat pieces of the jelly while using it as a refuge from predators.

The E/V Nautilus is a research vessel under the direction of Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic shipwreck. It is equipped with many state-of-the-art instruments to facilitate scientific discovery including ROVs that film their dives and tools to map the seafloor and collect samples. Recently, it has been mapping the seabed around the Baker and Howard Islands as well as the Johnston Atoll and collecting biological, chemical, and geological samples to improve our understanding of these deep-sea habitats.

The E/V Nautilus will be exploring the Johnston Atoll until September 16 and will then transition to mapping the seafloor of the Pacific Seamounts between Honolulu, Hawaii and San Francisco, California starting September 19. You can watch a livestream of their ROV dives and interact with scientists at

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I am an ocean and climate scientist interested in how human activity is altering our coastal oceans. I am currently a PhD student at the University of California, Davis ...