Meet The New Kid In Town: Big Red

Big Red or Tiburonia granrojo, is shown near the Farallon Islands illuminated by a remotely operated submarine March 31, 2002. Marine biologists at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute discovered 23 of what they call Big Reds in Monterey Bay and the Sea of Cortez and off Hawaii, Japan and the Farallon Islands near San Francisco. AP/San Francisco Chronicle

A new species of jellyfish with a yard-wide fleshy red bell and a cluster of thick arms with wart-like stingers has been found by scientists nearly a mile beneath the cold, dark waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The life of Big Red, as they call it, is still totally unknown. Scientists don't know what they eat, how they reproduce, or even if the ones they've seen are males or females.

George Matsumoto and other marine biologists of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing published a report in the journal Marine Biology saying 23 Big Reds have been found off the Farallon Islands near San Francisco, as well as in the Sea of Cortez, in Monterey Bay, and off Hawaii and Japan.

"For now," Matsumoto said, "the good news is that Big Red is unique and fascinating and exciting, while the bad news is that it takes so much more research work to classify it, to publish what we learn about it, and eventually to understand all the things we don't know about it. But even that's fun, too."

The only member of the new tribe collected intact is a tiny eight inches wide, and it is now being studied at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Matsumoto said.

But the team has been using a remote-controlled submarine to get video images of the big jelly swimming, and has even collected tissue samples of the bell and the thick arms of one specimen. From the samples, scientists have concluded that Big Red is a unique species in a unique genus in a unique subfamily within a larger family.

They named the new genus Tiburonia after the aquarium's research vessel Tiburon, and the species granrojo, Spanish for big red.
  • Dan Collins

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