New Jellyfish Species Discovered

When Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) Associate Professor of Biology Brenden Holland, Ph.D., and HPU graduate student Anita Harrington teamed up last summer to work on the DNA sequencing of a new species of jellyfish found off the coast of Japan neither professor nor student were quite sure what they were going to uncover. 

Holland had received an email from Jerry Crow, president of the nonprofit Ocean Research Explorations. Crow and hydroid expert Dale Calder at the Royal Ontario Museum were examining the morphology of a species of jellyfish that’s been on exhibit for decades in two public aquaria in Japan. Researchers in Japan had assumed it was a species that occurs off of the east coast of North America, Tima formosa. They were propagating the species in captivity and had shared specimens with other public aquariums around the world.

Crow and Calder were studying the anatomy of the jellyfish but were unable to match it with anything that had previously been described. Stumped, they sent some tissue samples to Holland. He and Harrington extracted the jellyfish DNA and conducted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and taxonomic analysis at the Oceanic Institute of HPU. 

Nothing came back as an exact match. This means that the jellyfish is a new species. It’s ecology is not well known, and it has not been formally described before. 

The new species of jellyfish was named: Tima nigroannulata. The jellyfish is about the size of a human hand, has a black ring around the bell with 53 tentacles. It has fluorescent qualities under ultraviolet light and a complex life history.

“We are in a technologically revolutionary time,” said Holland. “The molecular genetic research we routinely do at HPU was unthinkable a few decades ago.”

The paper resulting from the discovery of Tima nigroannulata was published in Zoological Science.

For photo and video of tima nigroannulata, click here

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