The world’s oceans are fascinating places, filled with creatures that defy even the wildest reaches of human imagination. They’re gorgeous and mysterious—captivating reminders of how little we truly understand about our planet and the incredible range of species that inhabit it. That said, the ocean’s depths are also total fucking nightmare realms inhabited by organisms so unnervingly bizarre they make Hieronymus Bosch’s visions of hell look downright sensible and pleasant in comparison.
As a reminder of this, here’s a video of a Deepstaria jellyfish, which shapeshifts like a CGI modeling experiment while playing host to a little crustacean that’s simultaneously eating its body from the inside.
The footage, which was captured more than 2,500 feet below the central Pacific Ocean by the Ocean Exploration Trust, shows the Deepstaria floating around and changing its shape to a ridiculous extent. It starts off hanging around like a little Halloween ghost draped in a sheet before spreading outward, expanding and folding into weird new forms that resemble a thin, fleshy towel.
We hear observers freaking out as the Deepstaria does its thing, talking about how “spooky” it is, but the true extent of its weirdness is made clearer by the species description provided below the video. We learn that the Deepstaria doesn’t have “stinging tentacles like other jellies” so, instead, it “can close the opening of its expansive bag-like bell, trapping any prey that has floated inside.” If pondering the dimensions of an otherworldly creature that traps food inside its “expansive bag-like bell” wasn’t doing enough for you already, the description also explains that the red spot seen within the Deepstaria is an “isopod taking up residence” inside the jellyfish.
“The full extent of this association [between isopod and Deepstaria] is unknown,” the text reads before charmingly speculating that it’s “likely that this small crustacean consumes pieces of jelly while remaining hidden from predators.”
At one point in the video, an observer says: “What is it thinking?” This question, luckily, doesn’t seem possible to answer for now, which is a small mercy. Temporarily at least, we just have to imagine what a living underwater bedsheet thinks rather than reckoning directly with its cosmically strange, alien outlook on a world our small human brains trick us into believing we comprehend.
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