Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (2010), 90:1079-1093 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2010
doi:10.1017/S0025315410000536

Research Article

In situ observations of Stygiomedusa gigantea in the Gulf of Mexico with a review of its global distribution and habitat


Mark C. Benfielda1 c1 and William M. Grahama2

a1 Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
a2 Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory and University of South Alabama, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA
Article author query
benfield mc [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
graham wm [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]

Abstract

Four individuals of the large scyphozoan jellyfish Stygiomedusa gigantea were observed in the northern Gulf of Mexico over 2005–2009 by industrial remotely operated vehicles as part of the SERPENT Project. One of these observations included the symbiotic bythitid fish Thalassobathia pelagica. Prior to these observations, neither S. gigantea nor T. pelagica had been observed in, or collected from the Gulf of Mexico. In order to summarize the available information on S. gigantea, we located 110 observations obtained over 110 years (1899–2009) representing 118 individual specimens of this species from around the world. The resulting dataset confirms that this species is cosmopolitan occurring with records from all oceans except the Arctic. While the depth-range of the four Gulf of Mexico specimens was bathypelagic, there appears to be a pattern of S. gigantea occurring in mesopelagic and epipelagic depth-zones at high latitudes, particularly in the Southern Ocean and mesopelagic and bathypelagic depths at mid- and low-latitudes. This pattern may be related to the meridional vertical distribution of temperature or perhaps avoidance of light levels that could degrade porphyrin pigments. There was no evidence that this species migrates vertically. Two of the individuals in the Gulf of Mexico appeared to be actively clinging to subsea structures and we speculate that this is a consequence of its normal mode of feeding, which may entail using its large oral lobes to hold on to, and trap prey.

(Received October 15 2009)

(Accepted February 04 2010)

(Online publication June 30 2010)

KeywordsScyphozoa; Stygiomedusa gigantea; Thalassobathia pelagica; behaviour; SERPENT; remotely operated vehicle; distribution; abundance

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: M.C. Benfield, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA email: mbenfie@lsu.edu