By Emily Piesse (ABC)
A school of box jellyfish found off the Kimberley coast in Western Australia may be the first of the species to be recorded in deep water.
Scientists discovered the jellyfish in March during a biodiversity survey in Camden Sound, about 200 kilometres north of Derby.
“We did a 1,500-metre video tow and counted 64 of these large box jellyfish, and they were all located within about half a metre of the seabed,” CSIRO principal research scientist John Keesing said.
The jellyfish were found 42 metres below the ocean’s surface, close to a reef, which is unusual for the animal.
“As far as we know it’s the first time that’s been found,” Dr Keesing said.
“These animals are ones we normally associate with coastal beaches and mangrove creeks, so certainly much closer to the mainland than we had found them [this time].”
He said it was unclear why the jellyfish were at a great depth.
“It’s possible that being close to the seabed, that they are able to actually avoid some of the stronger tidal currents,” Dr Keesing said.
Scientists from the CSIRO, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Western Australian Museum were involved in the survey, as part of a study for the Western Australian Marine Science Institution.
Keesing J, Strzelecki J, Stowar M, Wakeford M, Miller K, Gershwin L, Liu G (Feb 2016) Abundant box jellyfish, Chironex sp. (Cnidaria: Cubozoa: Chirodropidae), discovered at depths of over 50 m on western Australian coastal reefs Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/srep22290
The $30 million Kimberley Marine Research Program is funded through major investment supported by $12 million from the Western Australian government co-invested by the WAMSI partners and supported by the Traditional Owners of the Kimberley.