This Deep Sea Creature Looks Like An Alien Spaceship (Lampocteis cruentiventer)

Welcome to another post of my strange animals series where you get to meet some of the weirdest, coolest, and craziest animals in the world.

An alternative title for today's post could well be "Leaked Footage Proves Aliens Exist" or something:

This amazing, alien-like creature is commonly known as the "bloodybelly comb jelly". Scientifically described as Lampocteis cruentiventer, it is the only species of the genus Lampocteis, which in turn is the only genus in the family Lampoctenidae. 

The genus name "Lampoctena"  is derived from the Greek words λαµπóς for "shining”, and "κτενóς" for “comb” which refers to the "bright iridescence of the comb rows caused by diffraction of light through the broad comb plates." [1] 

This stunning animal was first collected in 1979 off southern California by the deep-ocean research submersible DSRV Alvin. More specimens were later collected from 1991 to 1999 and examined by the scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). [1]

Individuals range in color from deep red, purple, or black to pale purple but always have a blood-red stomach, hence the nickname "bloodybelly".  It is believed that the stomach is red because it "helps mask bioluminescent light from the prey it swallows. A predator with a glowing gut could easily become prey." [2]

The jelly lives in depths ranging from 700 to 1,000 meters and the specimens that have been examined as of today range from 1.5 and 16 cm in length and 1.2 to 10 centimeters in width. 

In case you wonder, no this jelly doesn't sting and it's not actually related to jellyfish. Jellyfish belong to the phylum Cnidaria whereas this guy belongs to Ctenophora, a group of invertebrate animals that live in marine waters worldwide commonly known as "comb jellies".

Four different specimens of Lampocteis cruentiventer as photographed in the laboratory of MBARI.  In the depths the animal inhabits, this coloration makes it almost invisible to predators. (credit)

And that's pretty much all we know about this elusive creature. Diet? Reproduction? Life expectancy? All these are a mystery waiting to be unfold!

Since this post is smaller than usual, here's some awesome footage, again from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, of two other, equally stunning comb jellies (Beroe spp). Enjoy:

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