Unidentified deep-sea creature --

On June 11, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) released photographs of a mysterious deep-sea creature believed to be an unknown species of comb jelly, or ctenophore, a jellyfish-like marine animal. Taken by JAMSTEC's "Kaikou" unmanned submersible at a depth of 7,217 meters (nearly 24,000 feet) in the Ryukyu Trench about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Okinawa, the photographs show a gelatinous animal with two pairs of long, spindly tentacles -- one pair extended horizontally in front of its body and one pair stuck to the ocean floor, allowing the creature to float in place like a kite.

The creature's elongated body is 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches) long and 5 to 8 centimeters (2 to 3 inches) wide. The rear tentacles measure 1.5 to 2.5 meters (5 to 8 feet) in length, while the forward-reaching tentacles, which float on the current and catch prey, measure between 1 and 1.5 meters (3 to 5 feet) in length. The animal's gastrovascular system, which circulates nutrients through the body, appears whitish in color.

JAMSTEC filmed the gelatinous animal in April 2002, and subsequent research has led the researchers to conclude it is very likely a new species. However, they are unable to say for certain until they capture an actual specimen.

[Source: Asahi, JAMSTEC press release, photos]