Lost and found – another alien jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea
23 Oct. 2010, CIESM News

Following a winter storm in 2006 an odd jellyfish was found stranded on the beach next to the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Israel. The specimen was photographed, preserved and mailed to a jellyfish taxonomist – and alas lost in the mail! Four years later, on a blazingly hot day in the past summer, alerted to the presence of a “different” jellyfish by a lifeguard who takes part in the jellywatch network, Dr. Galil was delighted to recognize the jellyfish that went missing. Morphological characters identified it as a cepheid scyphozoan, but the specimens showed remarkable differences from other cepheid genera. It was thus described as Marivagia stellata gen. et sp. nov. (in Latin, starry sea wanderer), so named after its conspicuous pattern of reddish stars, dots and streaks clustered in centre of its exumbrella on a background of translucent bluish-white. The results of molecular analyses based on mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) and 28S ribosomal DNA were compared with scyphozoan sequences in GenBank. They support its placement among the Cepheidae and also provide its barcode signature. This new find is the fourth introduced scyphozoan species recorded in the Mediterranean. The identity of a previously unknown jellyfish “different in shape” recently reported from Lebanese waters, was resolved with the publication of its photograph – the starry sea wanderer has extended its range to Lebanon.

The sudden appearance of a population of a new jellyfish in the vicinity of Haifa Bay, next to a major port, suggests that transportation on ship hulls of the sessile polyp is a likely dispersal method. The Indo-Pacific is a hot-spot for cepheid jellyfish, and nine out of ten alien species recorded off the Israeli coast stem from the Indo-Pacific province. The authors therefore have good reason to believe that M. stellata is an alien species.

Galil B.S., Gershwin L.A., Douek J. and Rinkevich B., 2010. Marivagia stellata gen. et sp. nov. (Scyphozoa: Rhizostomeae: Cepheidae), another alien jellyfish from the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Aquatic Invasions (in press).

Marivagia stellata — Photo Dr. G. Rilov (NIO, IOLR, Israel).