New to the Two Oceans Aquarium, and displayed for the first time - ever - the pink meanie (Drymonema sp.) is an extremely rare species of true jelly, only ever sighted a few times in conjunction with intense blooms of other jelly species, particularly moon jellies on which it feeds in the Northern Hemisphere.
With thanks to Two Oceans Aquarium member and local blogger, 6000.co.za, for the incredible pink meanie photographs featured above and below.
The particular pink meanie at the Two Oceans Aquarium differs from pink meanies found in other parts of the world.
It is thought to be endemic, as this variety has only been observed around the southwestern coast of Africa, an unusual habitat for Drymonema - all other known species inhabit warm waters, such as the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
Interestingly, although more thoroughly studied than our local species, the Mexican pink meanie (Drymonema larsoni), was only discovered in the year 2000. A Mediterranean relative known as the "Big Pink Jellyfish" (Drymonema dalmatinum) has been known to science since the 1800s, but when spotted in 2014 it had been almost 70 years since the last sighting. These jellies are incredibly rare, and this new South African species is no exception.
Due to its rarity, the South African species has not been classified and we know very little about it. The specimen on display at the Two Oceans Aquarium was actually collected accidentally, netted outside of the Aquarium while collecting box jellies and was added to our compass jelly holding tank over the weekend. Much to our surprise, on Monday morning all the compass jellies appeared to be sticking together - an odd occurence as they have adaptations to avoid becoming entangled.
On closer inspection, it was revealed that the compass jellies had all been ensnared by an unnoticed newcomer. With much excitement, our jelly handler realised that it was in fact a pink meanie - an animal he described as "the unicorn of jellies".
Pink meanies are jellyvorous, meaning they feed on other jelly species by reeling them in with their long tentacles. It is considered the most efficient jellyvorous jelly, as it can digest its prey within two to three hours. Its Mexican cousins have been seen consuming up to 34 other jellies at once. Needless to say, our specimen made quick work of all the compass jellies it was accidentally placed with.
Through some experimentation, our staff have determined that this pink meanie doesn't like eating comb jellies or salps - it grips them but seems to immediately react and release them. It seems that the pink meanie more readily eats "true jellyfish", like the compass jelly, and this one enjoys a quick snack (or should we say "smack") of box jellies too.