Correcting a case of mistaken identity leads to the identification of a new species of jellyfish, and forms the subject for a new paper published in the PeerJ journal.
Sometimes, there’s no need to plunge into the ocean depths or venture into a rainforest to discover a new species. Sometimes, all you need to do is simply to take a closer look.
At least, that was how it was for Dr Keith Bayha, a research associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
It all started when Dr Bayha noticed that the jellyfish off the coast of Delaware (Cape Henlopen) were much larger than anything he had seen before. Genetic testing in the laboratory subsequently revealed that these jellyfish were different from those in Chesapeake Bay and Rehoboth Bay.
He then worked with Dr Patrick Gaffney at the University of Delaware and Dr Allen Collins from the NOAA National Systematics Laboratory to investigate further. Together, they discovered that the jellyfish in Chesapeake Bay was a distinct species from their ocean-based cousins, the sea nettle jellyfish.
Compared to the sea nettle, the jellyfish in Chesapeake Bay are smaller and they have about half the number of tentacles. They are found in less salty waters known as estuaries. Being a separate species, they are now called “bay nettle jellyfish” (Chrysaora chesapeakei).