It’s not often that something truly one-of-a-kind and enigmatic appears before our eyes. That’s exactly what happened when a diver managed to capture footage of an extraordinarily rare jellyfish off the coast of Australia.
The jellyfish, identified as a Chirodectes maculatus, or spotted box jellyfish, is so rare that it’s only been sighted twice, and this video marks the second occasion. The diver, who shared the footage on Facebook, described the jellyfish as being about the size of a soccer ball and noted its swift movement.
Its body is transparent and adorned with rings of various sizes. The jellyfish has four sets of striped tentacles trailing behind it, and a bright red organ within its bell, likely its gastrovascular cavity.
Known as one of the most venomous creatures in the world, the box jellyfish can be deadly to humans. However, C. maculatus is an exception, as it’s not toxic, making it unique in its family.
Dr. Allen Collins, a zoologist and curator for the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History, said, “It is not possible to make out all of the characters of the species Chirodectes maculatus from the video (some are internal), but it certainly fits very well based on what one can observe.”
First described in 2005 by Australian scientists under the leadership of Paul Cornelius, the preserved specimen dated back to 1997. The researchers resisted dissecting it, restricting their study to its surface. Originally called Chiropsalmus, it was later reclassified to the recognized genus Chirodectes by another scientist, Lisa-Ann Gershwin.
Though its size is noteworthy, the true marvel is that it’s only been seen twice. “That something so large and conspicuous in appearance would only be seen twice is pretty surprising,” remarked Collins. “But that said, a lot of diversity is rare. It tells me that we still have a lot of exploration to undertake.”
The spotted box jellyfish stands as a symbol of how much remains unknown about the ocean and its inhabitants. Through discoveries like this, we’re constantly reminded that the sea still holds many intriguing and mysterious secrets yet to be revealed.