A mysterious creature with 24 eyes was found in a muddy lake in Hong Kong.
Scientists discovered it while monitoring the water body in the Mai Po reserve, finding it to be a completely new species of jellyfish.
The new species is part of the jellyfish family. It has a transparent body measuring less than an inch and three long tentacles.
The jellyfish has two dozen eyes, which are equally divided into four groups of six, located inside a sensory depression called a rhopalium on each side of the bell.
This is the first discovery of new species of jellyfish in Chinese waters and the fourth species in the Tripedaliidae family, which includes some of the highly venomous marine animals in tropical waters.
It may look small, but this new species has poison darts hidden in its tentacles. Scientists discovered this new box jellyfish in a lake located in Hong Kong
Box jellyfish, named for their body shape, have tentacles like poison darts that release a toxin that can cause paralysis, cardiac arrest and even death, all within minutes of stinging.
The Australian box jellyfish is considered the most venomous marine animal in the world.
“The class Cubozoa, known as the box jellyfish because of its cube-shaped bells, comprises a small group of cnidarians with approximately 50 described species and is well known to the public for containing some of the world’s most venomous marine animals. “, says the study, published in the academic journal Zoological Studies.
A team of scientists led by Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) monitored the marine animal for three years, finding that more and more were appearing in the salty water of the shrimp ponds in the Mai Po Nature Reserve.
The reserve features wetlands with shallow pools that flow into the Sham Chun River, Shan Pui River and Tin Shui Wai Nula
The team collected the jellyfish from the pond and analyzed its DNA and tissue, which allowed them to determine that it was a new species.
It is closely related to species from Jamaica, Florida, Singapore, Australia and India.
Its two dozen eyes are equally divided into four groups of six, which are located inside a sensory depression called a rhopalium on each side of the bell
The creature has three tentacles up to 10 centimeters long at the corners
Part of the jellyfish family, the invertebrate has a transparent body measuring less than an inch and three long tentacles – and is the first to be discovered in the region
Lead researcher Professor Qiu Jianwen said box jellyfish were “poorly known” in China’s marine waters and believed the discovery meant a “rich diversity” of marine life around Hong Kong.
Both males and females were collected from the lake in 2022.
The “wings” of the female gonads are thin, extending from the stomach to the velarium, a thin sheet of muscle that forms the opening of the bell.
And the “wings” are a yellowish color.
The “wings” of the male gonads are broad with rounded tips extending from the stomach to the velarium and are whitish.
The 24 eyes are standard for a box jellyfish, and two of the groups are said to have had lenses that allowed image formation, while the other four could only sense light.
The creature has three tentacles up to 10 centimeters long at the corners.
A flat, pedal-shaped structure at the base of each tentacle resembles a boat oar, allowing jellyfish to produce strong thrusts when contracting their bodies.
And this feature helps it swim faster than other types of jellyfish.
Box jellyfish can reach four knots while swimming, while other species drift with the current.
The new species is the only one known of its kind in the region, prompting scientists to name it Tripedalia maipoensis in honor of the reserve where it was discovered.
“Currently, it is only known in Mai Po,” Jianwen said.
“We believe this species is also common in the adjacent waters of the Pearl River estuary, as they are connected to the estuary by a tidal channel.”