Spooky Arctic jellyfish surprises scientists in viral video
Eerie footage leaves no doubt jellyfish can survive freezing temperatures
Scientists were stunned by the surprising behaviour they captured on film.
This week, internet viewers got a glimpse, too.
In a murky, underwater scene, a spooky-looking jellyfish sweeps its tentacles along the icy ocean bottom.
The initial discovery only came about through a happy accident.
It all happened after a gruelling day of digging through thick Arctic ice off Alaska.
Craig Aumack is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at Georgia Southern University. Aumack and his team couldn't believe their eyes when they realized what they'd found.
It was completely fortituous. The researchers had no intention of looking for jellyfish. They were there to study algae that lie in the sea ice.
What might help jellyfish to survive the Arctic winter
The scientists speculate three factors contribute to helping the jellyfish through the winter:
- Sea ice provides adults some protection against the fierce winter storms.
- The jellyfish slow down their metabolism in the cold so they don't need as much food during the dark winter.
- Perhaps the ancient animals drag their tentacles to max out the limited prey down below.
What it means amid massive ice melts
Over four gruelling winters, Aumack's team showed how the seemingly quiet, icy waters are home to active jellyfish.
The observations are shifting scientists' understanding of how polar flora and fauna adapt in the warming Arctic ecoystem.
And while the jellyfish living in the water will likely be ok, biologists warn polar bears and seals that rely on the dwindling ice supply are in a more precarious position.