Saturday 12 January 2019

Melicertissa antrichardsoni & Paralovenia yongalensis: Two new species of micro-Jellyfish from Queensland, Australia.

Jellyfish, Medusozoa, are familiar animals to both biologists and the general public, being common in all marine waters, and noteworthy for their painful and sometimes deadly stings. However, whilst larger species are widely observed and studied, 90% of Jellyfish are very small, and generally overlooked, members of the zooplankton drifting on ocean currents.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 3 September 2018, Julian Uribe-Palomino of CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Sarah Pausina, also of CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, and of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland, and Lisa-ann Gershwin, again of CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, describe two new species of micro-Jellyfish from the waters off Queensland, Australia.

A wide variety Jellyfish are found in the waters to the north of Australia all year round, and move south with currents during the southern summer, making the more venomous varieties a threat to bathers along the north Australian coast. The Jellyfish move further south in warmer years, and there are concerns that rising sea temperatures associated with global warming may lead to them moving further south in the future.

The first new species is placed in the genus Melicertissa, and given the specific name antrichardsoni, in honour of Anthony Richardson of CSIRO and the University of Queensland, for his work with the Australian Plankton Survey. The species is described from a series of specimens collected in Morton Bay. These are on average 2 mm in diameter with eight tentacles, though in many cases they show signs of damage, with tentacles either missing or partially regrown. The bodies of these Jellyfish are largely colourless, with yellow gonads and dark tentacles.

Melicertissa antrichardsoni, two male specimens. Scale bar is 1 mm. Uribe-Palomino et al. (2018).

The second new species is placed in the genus Paralovenia and given the specific name yongalensis, in reference to the SS Yongala, which sank in 1911 to the south-east of Townsville, Queensland, close to the location where the new species was discovered. Paralovenia yongalensis is described from a single female specimen 1.47 mm in diameter. This specimen is bell-shaped with two tentacles, and four spindle-shaped gonads in which clusters of eggs are visible.

Paralovenia yongalensis, female, note conical statocyst-like structure (indicated by red arrow). Scale bar is 0.5 mm. Uribe-Palomino et al. (2018). 

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