May 17, 2008

'Snot a flatworm, it's a new jellyfish

TeamSeagrass note: Here's what you MAY find if you look closely at seagrasses!

by Gabrielle Dunlevy, National Nine News 16 May 08;

It looks like snot, it's the size of a grain of rice, and it's taking the marine science world by storm.

A new jellyfish species has been discovered inside the seahorse exhibit at the Reef HQ aquarium in Townsville, in north Queensland.

Scientist Dr Lisa Gershwin said she found the species by accident.

The expert in marine stingers said she was delighted at the find, because it was unlike anything she had ever seen.

The jellyfish, of the family Coeloplana, has its mouth on its underside and its anus wrapped around its brain.

It looks more like a flatworm than a jellyfish, and moves by gliding along the seagrass.

Dr Gershwin said the species was an evolutionary "dead end".

"It's lost the ability to sting, it's lost the ability to swim, it's not a very good jellyfish, as far as jellyfish go," she told AAP.

Dr Gershwin said it was the 159th species she had found, and would be named after Dr Russell Reichelt, chief executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

"This particular one, I think is really, really special," she said.

"The typical non-science person thinks of science as happening in sterile labs far away, in a university or a hospital by people in white lab coats and latex gloves.

"This really brings it home that science is all around us and happens in our own backyards."

The jellyfish will be studied further before it is described and submitted to a peer reviewed journal.

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