A handful of photos making the rounds on Japanese blogs purport to show a species of jellyfish only found in Japanese aquariums.
It’s one of those dreams we’ve all had as kids: Discovering a totally new species of animal right in our backyard so we can name it something ridiculous like Mikeasaurus Rex, bask in our 15 minutes of fame and get our Crayola crayon-drawn image of the creature featured in Highlights magazine.
Well, over two decades ago, that dream came true for (presumably) a team of employees at a Japanese aquarium who discovered a never-before-seen species of jellyfish in one of their tanks. And that discovery is only just now coming to light for the general public thanks to a couple of photos making the rounds on Twitter and in the Japanese media.
芋ジャージ (@wanda035310) September 19, 2016
The jellyfish species, known as ereine lactoides or, in Japanese, the kobu eirene kurage (コブエイレネクラゲ), has, according to the below informational placard spotted at an unnamed aquarium, never been seen in the wild. It was apparently registered as an entirely new species in 1992 after it was first spotted in captivity.
Information about the creature seems to be scarce, which raises a couple of deep questions about the species and how it came to be. Did it spontaneously evolve from another species of jellyfish already contained in the aquarium, or did it somehow find its way in alongside a delivery of some other marine animal? And if it’s a species that already exists in the wild, and can thrive in an aquarium setting (i.e., not a deep sea species or otherwise one that might live in extreme environments), why has it eluded biologists for so long?
The answers to those questions may not be long off, as these otherwise unassuming photos seem to have rekindled an interest among Japanese commenters.