It might look like a plastic bag drifting through the water, but new footage has actually revealed a brand new creature lurking at the bottom of the ocean.
The species, named ‘Duobrachium sparksae‘ has been formally identified by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration as a new type of ‘ctenophore’, after it was discovered by a remotely operated submarine vehicle off the coast of Puerto Rico five years ago.
Scientists haven’t been able to study the creature in person, but luckily for them, HD footagecaptured by the vehicle, called Deep Discoverer, meant they were able to identify details on the creature’s body that distinguished it from other known ctenophore. Pretty impressive, given the jelly-like creature is less than a millimetre long.
The findings were recently published in a journal, with NOAA scientist Allen Collins explaining that it marks the first time a new creature has been identified and described entirely through video footage.
He said in a statement:
It’s unique because we were able to describe a new species based entirely on high-definition video.
We don’t have the same microscopes as we would in a lab, but the video can give us enough information to understand the morphology in detail, such as the location of their reproductive parts and other aspects
The vehicle filmed three of the creatures 2.5 miles below sea level, all of which had the same round balloon-shaped body and two thin tentacles which oceanographers have speculated could be used to anchor themselves to the sea bed.
Ctenophores are typically found in similar areas of the ocean, but it’s rare for vehicles to dive deep enough to spot them. The animals, which are believed to feed off small sea creatures like larvae, look a little bit like jellyfish, although the NOAA says they’re not related.
Oceanographer Mike Ford said of the discovery:
It was a beautiful and unique organism
We saw the species three times in a relatively small area; hopefully that means they’re not extremely rare