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Darth Vader Jelly is the Sith of the Deep Sea

In 2002, Kevin A. Raskoff was exploring the middle layer of the Arctic Ocean. The expedition was more machine than man, as a remotely piloted ROV was searching for new species at this not-quite-ocean-bottom. His team found one–a four-tentacled jellyfish that had a bell like a Sith lord. Raskoff’s second ROV dive proved the jelly was abundant. The “Darth Vader” jelly was drifting everywhere in the frigid waters, finding its lack of scientific classification disturbing.

Bathykorus bouilloni is a transparent jelly with a light blue hue, the only species in the genus Bathykorus–Greek for “deep helmet”–that lives between 2,600 and 8,200 feet. It’s less than an inch in diameter, and what sets it apart are its tentacles, its biological equivalent of lightsabers. There are four primary tentacles, like you would see adorning another jelly, but B. bouilloni‘s are anchored above the “rim” of the animal. Then there are four secondary tentacles, tiny nubbins on the rim of the jelly, that contain balance sensory organs called statocysts.


When viewed side-on, as in the picture above, B. bouilloni might as well be D. vaderi. How the top of the bell appears to bow out, how the internal organs mimic the breathing apparatus, how the secondary tentacles punctuate the jelly’s rim like Vader’s nose and mouth nubs — this jelly is officially a part of the Dark Side. It almost has to be, living in a place with literally no light.

And like Vader, the jelly doesn’t survive very long outside of its habitat. Raskoff was able to collect specimens, but they expired within days. Still, it was worth it to see a new species with our own eyes.

Images: Lucasfilm; Kevin Raskoff

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