• It's said to be the first new box jellyfish species to be discovered in the waters of China
  • The creatures are transparent and very small
  • It's only the fourth species in its family

A team of researchers has discovered a new species of box jellyfish in Hong Kong. It's said to be the first new box jellyfish species to be discovered in the waters of China.

Box jellyfish, scientifically known as Cubozoa because of their box-shaped bodies, are among the world's most venomous marine animals. There are some 50 described species of these infamous creatures.

In their paper, which was published in Zoological Studies, a team of researchers described a new box jellyfish species. They got the specimens from mangrove habitats in intertidal shrimp ponds of Hong Kong's Mai Po Nature Reserve, the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) noted in a news release.

The creatures are colorless and very small, with an average body length of just 1.5 centimeters and tentacles that are just 10 cm long. And just like their relatives, they have a rather "cuboidal shape" and 24 eyes.

They named it Tripedalia maipoensis after the nature reserve where they were found. The species is only the fourth one in the small family of Tripedaliidae, which is under the order Carybdeida of Cubozoa.

"Although the box jellyfish family Tripedaliidae has been widely reported from tropical and subtropical waters, this is the first record of it in Chinese coastal waters," the researchers wrote.

So far, the new species is known only from the locality where it was discovered, but it's possible they could also be in adjacent waterways such as the Pearl River Estuary. Further studies could help broaden the understanding of their distribution, as well as of Cubozoa diversity, the researchers said.

Apart from adding a new species of box jellyfish, the discovery is also quite interesting as it shows just how rich the marine life is in the waters of Hong Kong.

"Our discovery of Tripedalia maipoensis in Mai Po – a relatively well-studied area in Hong Kong – highlights the rich diversity of marine life in Hong Kong and even the whole of China," research lead, Professor Qiu Jianwen of HKBU, said in the release.

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