The Abyss - Comb Jellies
Written by Jonathan C. Wojcik - Photo credits unknown or from public news articles unless otherwise
noted. If you know their sources and need them credited or removed, please e-mail me.
One of the oddest of the ctenophores has yet to be classified or even named, but lives at
greater depths than any other species known to science. It is not known what this mystery
animal preys upon, but it attaches itself to the sea floor by a set of long, thin tentacles and
drifts like a kite in the water's current. Actually captured by remote video in 2002, the
footage went unnoticed until April of 2006.
Nearly all ctenophores possess rows of tiny, rippling cilia that propel them through the
water, the "combs" of their namesake. None bear a venomous sting, but many are
armed with tentacles coated in "lasso cells;" microscopic bags of sticky thread that
explode when touched. Others, like the Beroe's comb above, simply use their gaping
mouth to engulf prey, which typically includes jellyfish or fellow comb jellies.
While not uncommon near surface waters, the starship-like comb jellies are among the
deep's most plentiful inhabitants.  Not to be confused with the jellyfish or other
Cnidaria, these creatures belong to their own distinct phylum, the Ctenophora,
considered one of the single oldest animal phyla on Earth.
Photo: Casey Dunn