Friday 6 June 2014

A new species of Jellyfish from the North Adriatic Sea.

While instantly familiar and biologically simple, Jellyfish (Scyphozoa) are still in many ways poorly understood, with frequently poorly understood life-cycles and population structures, leading to unexpected shifts in population and sudden blooms of large numbers of Jellyfish, which can impact on commercial fisheries or have other unforeseen economic impacts.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 7 May 2014, a team of scientists led by Stefano Piraino of the Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche ed Ambientali at the Università del Salento and the Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Scienze del Mare, describe a new species of Jellyfish that unexpectedly produced a major bloom in the North Adriatic Sea from September 2013 till March 2014.

The new species is placed in the genus Pelagia, and given the specific name benovici, after the late Adam Benovic, an expert on the gelatinous plankton of the Adriatic. Pelagia benovici is a small Jellyfish, with a thin umbrella reaching 35-50 mm across at maturity. It is yellow ochre in colour, with a warty upper surface and oral arms. Both the oral arms and tentacles are white, as are the gonads.

Pelagia benovici in lateral view. Piraino et al. (2014).

Pelagia benovici appeared unexpectedly across a wide area of the Northern Adriatic in September 2013, forming dense blooms at depths of 20-25 m. While it is possible that the species is local, and has either suddenly changed its behaviour or has bloomed as part of a population cycle long enough to have not been observed previously, Piraino et al. deem this unlikely in an area as well studied as the North Adriatic, and instead speculate that it is recently introduced species. A number of introduced Jellyfish (and other) species have been recorded in the Mediterranean from the early twentieth century onwards, and the North Adriatic, particularly around the Gulf of Venice, is considered a hotspot for species introduction, due to the large number of ships passing through the area.

Map of sampling sites (stars) and observed distributional range (circles) of Pelagia benovici in the North Adriatic Sea. Piraino et al. (2014).

See also…

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 The mysterious ebb and flow of Jellyfish populations.

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