In 2002, scientists aboard a research vessel discovered a mysterious jellyfish near a volcanic crater off Japan. The creature was spotted again in 2020, and after extensive analysis, scientists have now confirmed that it is a new species, named Santjordia pagesi.
The St. George’s cross medusa jellyfish, considered large at 4 inches wide and 3 inches tall, boasts a circular body with around 240 tentacles. Its most distinctive feature is a bright red, cross-shaped stomach. The jellyfish’s transparent body resembles a cushion, with a thick white ring and vein-like structures.
The jellyfish was found at depths of 2,700 to 2,800 feet in the Sumisu Caldera near the Ogasawara Islands. It has been observed pulsing its body, propelling itself forward by opening and contracting the outer white ring.
Researchers, having first encountered the jellyfish in 2002, spent extensive hours searching before confirming its uniqueness in 2020. DNA analysis revealed enough genetic distinction to classify it into a new subfamily, bringing to the fore its rarity and significance in marine biology.
The species name Santjordia pagesi refers to Saint George in Catalan, representing its cross-shaped stomach. The second part of the name pays homage to Francesc Pagès, a cnidarian researcher. The jellyfish’s distinct features suggest it may possess a novel cnidarian venom.
The discovery of Santjordia pagesi highlights the incredible biodiversity of the deep sea and the importance of continued exploration and research in these largely unknown ecosystems.