One of the largest deep-sea jellyfish in its genus has been discovered

The new species was given the name "Atolla reynoldsi" in honor of the aquarium's first volunteer.
Nergis Firtina
Atolla reynoldsi
Atolla reynoldsi


If you are interested in marine biology, you may be familiar with the Atolla. It has a scarlet color and much longer tentacles, unlike other jellyfish.

Researchers from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) discovered a new kind of Atolla 15 years ago, according to a paper published in Animal, a peer-reviewed journal, in March.

The new species Atolla was called "Atolla reynoldsi," in honor of the first volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“We named this stunning new species in honor of Jeff Reynolds in recognition of the 4.3 million hours of service that he and other volunteers have contributed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium over the past 38 years," said George Matsumoto, Senior Education and Research Specialist at MBARI in a press release.

"They have graciously given their time to educate the public about the wonders of the ocean. Aquarium volunteers have been instrumental in raising awareness about the fragility of the ocean and inspiring the public to care about the health of the ocean,” added Matsumoto, who is also study's lead author.

What are the features of this new species?

Matsumoto and his colleagues suggest that this new species also live in the depths of Monterey Bay, California.

Atolla reynoldsi is large in comparison to other Atolla species. MBARI researchers collected the largest specimen, which was 13 centimeters (5.1 inches) in diameter, making this newly discovered species one of the largest in the genus.

One of the largest deep-sea jellyfish in its genus has been discovered
Laboratory photo of Atolla species.

Like other deep-sea jelly species, the fish has a furrowed bell. The bell is surrounded by a deep groove that divides the domed bell from the broad edge with thick pedalia (leaf-shaped) that have fingerlike lappets.

Atolla reynoldsi's tentacles are frequently seen coiled in addition to lacking the hypertrophied tentacle.

Built by volunteers: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Jeff Reynolds guarded a beached whale on Del Monte Beach overnight in 1980, four years before the Aquarium's official opening, so that it could be retrieved and ready for an overhead exhibit.

“This is such an honor to have this new species named after me. It also honors all the fantastic Aquarium volunteers over the decades. I was just the lucky one to be there so early on,” said Jeff Reynolds.

“Volunteering and working for the aquarium for 42 years was just such an awesome and rewarding experience. It was especially wonderful being taken in as a 16-year-old kid by mentors like [aquarium co-founder] Steve Webster and Tom Williams to just do whatever needed being done at the moment, from vacuuming the floor to caring for stranded sea otter pups to assisting with whale necropsies to building exhibit models."

Monterey Bay Aquarium is still a non-profit, and most of its employees work on a voluntary basis.

Study abstract

We have observed and collected unusual specimens of what we recognize as undescribed types of the genus Atolla over the past 15 years. Of these, there appear to be three potentially different types. One of these has now been genetically sequenced and compared both morphologically and molecularly with five other Atolla species that have been found in the eastern Pacific. This new variant is so morphologically distinct from other previously described Atolla species that we believe it can be described as a new species, Atolla reynoldsi sp. nov. This species along, with two additional types, may comprise a new genus. It is also clear that a more accurate and diagnostic morphological key for the genus Atolla needs to be developed. This paper will also provide some potential starting points for a new key to the genus.

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