Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Species Of Tri-Sex Jellyfish Rings In The New Year!

RESEARCHERS have started the year finding two new species of jellyfish in North Queensland including one with three sex organs. (TVB)

One of the new species was found, completely by chance, off a Port Douglas dock on New Years Eve.

Townsville-based stinger expert Lisa Gershwin, who has yet to name her discovery, joked it could be named after a NYE tradition, Auldlangsynia.

"We were just lying on a dock with all the parties around us and peering into the water checking out all the life swimming around in the water, attracted by the lights," Dr Gershwin said.

"We were literally fishing with an eyedropper and lifted this jellyfish out of the water.

"It was about 1mm tall and absolutely beautiful."

The small jellyfish is not a deadly species.

It has three gonads – the reproductive organ of jellyfish.

The gonads are in a long, tubular form, divided into three sections.

The second species was found by lifesavers dragging the beach along Yorkeys Knob in Cairns.

Dr Gershwin described the new species as 'absolutely gorgeous'.

"It's about an inch across, with a brilliant red cross on its body. It's just gorgeous. There are lots of big tentacles. It packs a hell of a wallop, but is not deadly.

"It's more of an 'ow-ee' type stinger."

The stinger scientist, who has identified 149 new species of jellyfish, also rang in her New Year capturing a live specimen of pseudo-Irukandji at Clump Point Jetty at Mission Beach on Monday night.

The pseudo-Irukandji is believed to be the same species that killed American Robert King off far north Queensland in 2002.

"It was one of the main species in my thesis, but to have a live specimen in an aquarium where we can observe and record its behaviour and experiment with is incredible, both from a research perspective and public safety point of view," Dr Gershwin said.

"This is a very, very rare species that you don't get to see that often."

She said the discoveries were reminders of a virtual treasure chest of marine life yet to be found in the ocean.

"These were all found in the space of two days."