This ghostly giant is a rare sight. It has only been sighted in the wild 100 times since it was first collected in 1899.
The giant phantom jellyfish (Stygiomedusa gigantea) was caught by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s ROV Doc Ricketts at 990m (3,200 feet) in the Midnight Zone of perpetual darkness.
The bell of this deep-sea wanderer is more than one metre (3.3 feet) across and trails four ribbon-like oral (or mouth) arms that can grow more than 10m (33 feet) in length.
MBARI’s ROVs have logged thousands of dives, yet it has only seen this species nine times.
The giant phantom jellyfish was first collected at the end of the 19th Century. Since then, scientists have only encountered this animal about 100 times. It appears to have a worldwide distribution and has been recorded in all ocean basins except for the Arctic.
Because its preferred habitat is so deep, little is known about the behaviour of the giant phantom jellyfish.
‘The challenges of accessing its deep-water habitat contribute to the relative scarcity of sightings for such a large and broadly distributed species,’ the institute writes in a Facebook post.
Before being able to observe them with ROVs, scientists tried bringing giant phantom jellies closer to the surface using trawl nets — a common method for deep-dwelling species — but they would turn to ‘gelatinous goo’ in the nets.