The Bloody-Belly Comb Jelly, A Deep-Sea Fireball

This sparkling, deep-sea fireball is the comb jelly Lampocteis cruentiventer. MBARI scientists helped to describe this genus and species using ROV video footage. The name means “brilliant comb jelly with a blood-red belly.”

All comb jellies, or ctenophores, have eight rows of hair-like cilia, called ctenes, used for swimming and eating. White light from the ROV is diffracted by these beating comb rows producing a rainbow display. Extra-broad, highly iridescent ctene plates make this animal especially bright.

Lampocteis can vary from transparent to amber to deep red, but its belly is always blood-red to mask the glow of any bioluminescent prey items it eats. Red wavelengths are absorbed quickly in the ocean, so red coloration helps deep-sea animals camouflage in the depths where they appear black and disappear into the darkness. Comb jellies are a significant component of the midwater food web.

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