The Shifter With a Prize Inside

(Image credit: Nautilus (nautiluslive.org))

What in the name of Neptune’s beard is that thing? A ghost? An alien? The ghost of an alien?

Such were the questions that vexed a team of deep-sea scientists aboard the Nautilus research vessel earlier this month, when their underwater recon robot encountered a limp, limbless creature hovering like a ghostly lantern over the Pacific seafloor. As the team watched, the bell-shaped blob suddenly transformed, ballooning into a long, translucent windsock with a mysterious red splotch stuck to its innards.

The blob, the researchers revealed in a recent video of the encounter, was no alien (it’s never aliens), but one of the rarest-seen and least-studied jellyfish in the sea.

It’s called Deepstaria (named for the research vessel that first discovered the genus in the 1960s), and has been seen only a dozen or so times in the last half-century. Researchers don’t know much about the armless, shapeshifting sack, but they do know it has a habit of expanding its body to engulf any prey trusting enough to swim nearby.

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