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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stauro Trek: A continuing mission...

Several days ago, on 1 September, I showed this mystery photo:

The next day, I promised to tell the full story about this animal.  Well, it turned out to be a bigger mystery than we first anticipated.  I don't have enough time tonight to reveal all of the details, but I thought it would be fun to share at least part of the story (and more pictures!).

If you follow this blog, you might have guessed that this is a staurozoan, sometimes informally called a stalked jelly.  [See previous posts about staurozoans on 13 July 2017, 25 May 2013, and 12 November 2012.]  Below you can see the entire animal, with the stalk attached to a blade of algae.  This individual is ~25 mm long.

Staurozoans are predators, capturing small crustaceans (e.g., amphipods) with their stinging tentacles.  Here's a close-up of one arm with the beautiful (but deadly) tentacles:

While observing these staurozoans, we noticed an individual with an amphipod deep inside the calyx (the cup-like portion of the staurozoan).  Can you find the pink amphipod in the photo below?

One time we saw a staurozoan capture an amphipod that swam a little too close to the tentacles:

The unanticipated and exciting part of this story is that we are not sure which species this is.  It appears that it could be a staurozoan not previously known from California.  We are continuing to work with a team of experts to try to figure it out.  I'll provide additional information and we'll share more as the mission unfolds.  

And I'll end with a bonus.  Eric captured some very nice video, so here are some short clips of two individuals:

Haliclystus sp Bodega Bay from Jackie Sones on Vimeo.

Stay tuned!

P.S.  Many thanks to Malina for spotting these staurozoans!

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