A giant jellyfish that washed ashore on an Australian beach belongs to an unidentified species that has eluded scientists for years.
Twelve-year-old Xavier Lim was collecting shells on a beach in Tasmania last month when he came across a nearly 5-foot long jellyfish on shore. Described as being a type of “snotty,” or species of lion's mane jellyfish, the white-ish creature has a pink spot at its center. The Lim family took a photo and sent it to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
"The thing that I first said when I saw it [the photograph] was 'Phwoar'. It's a very scientific term," Lisa-ann Gershwin, who has been working with jellyfish for two decades, said. "I'm just rapt by it, honestly. It's such an amazing find."
Gershwin has heard of this giant jellyfish in Tasmanian water but has yet to see a specimen this large. Gershwin believes the unidentified species may belong to a third species of lion’s mane jellyfish that has yet to be classified.
"I do hear from time to time people tell me 'we found this one that was really big', but this one really is, really big,” Gershwin said. "[We] finally got specimens this year of it, so it's new to science, but it's not a brand new thing completely out of left field.”
The jellyfish is described as “a dinner plate with a mop hanging underneath,” Gershwin said. “They have a really raggedy look to them."
Gershwin believes the species, which is distinct from other lion’s mane jellyfish, is found solely off the waters of Tasmania.
"It's a whopper. We do get large jellyfish and this one just happened to be this absolutely enormous specimen," Gershwin told the Australian Broadcast Corporation. "I do hear from time to time people tell me 'we found this one that was really big', but this one really is, really big.”
While the jellyfish isn't deadly, its sting can be quite painful.
"If you touched it or whacked into when you were swimming it is very painful," Gershwin said. "It's not life-threatening, but it will sting you, it will wake you up."
Lion’s Mane jellyfish are the largest jellyfish species in the world that can reach up to 6.6 feet in length, with tentacles topping 49 feet. They live in the waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic -- something that has Gershwin wondering how the latest jellyfish washed ashore in warmer waters.
The jellyfish find is one of many in the Tasmanian waters this month, suggesting the jellyfish population is experiencing a boon.
"We don't actually know what's going on that's led, not only to this species, but many, many types of jellyfish blooming in massive numbers," she said. "There's something going on and we don't know what it is. To me, the real question is ... what impact are all of these mouths having on the ecosystem, and what in turn does that mean to us?"