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‘Magnificent’ jellyfish found off coast of Papua New Guinea could be new species

A scuba diver has captured footage of a “magnificent” jellyfish off the coast of Papua New Guinea, exciting marine biologists who think it could be a new species.

The jellyfish was initially thought to be a variety spotted only once before, off the coast of far north Queensland almost 25 years ago.

The video was captured by Dorian Borcherds, who owns Scuba Ventures in Kavieng, in the New Ireland province of Papua New Guinea.

Mr Borcherds, who has been diving in the area for more than 20 years, said he saw about three or four of the jellyfish and was struck by their unusual markings.

He described the creature on social media: “Saw a new type of jellyfish while diving today. It has cool markings and is a bit bigger than a soccer ball and they are quite fast swimming.”

He enlisted the help of his daughter in South Africa, who uploaded the video to the Jellyfish app, a project Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, a jellyfish expert at Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, co-founded.

“I thought it was interesting as I had never seen one of these before, so I sent [the video] to my daughter who downloaded a jellyfish app,” Mr Borcherds said.

“It couldn’t be identified, so she uploaded the footage to the app and within half an hour she had a very excited jellyfish expert on the phone from Tasmania.”

When Dr Gershwin saw the footage, she thought it was a video of the second sighting of a mysterious jellyfish – Chirodectes maculatus – which was found on the Great Barrier Reef in 1997. However the expert now believes the creature is a new species.

“I was complete gobsmacked when they sent me through the photos,” Dr Gershwin said. “I thought, oh my God, what is this thing and where is it? This species had only been spotted once on the Great Barrier Reef in the 1990s.”

After analysing the footage with the help of Queensland Museum in Brisbane where the original Queensland specimen was stored, Dr Gershwin noticed that the jellyfish had different markings, was much larger, and had other technical differences to Chirodectes maculatus.

While she is confident the jellyfish is a new species, her paper on the species classification is yet to be peer-reviewed.

Xural.com

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