The size of a grape, the Bazinga rieki jellyfish was first photographed by Ocean Shores underwater photographer Denis Riek.
The size of a grape, the Bazinga rieki jellyfish was first photographed by Ocean Shores underwater photographer Denis Riek. Denis Riek

Bazinga! How the coolest jellyfish was first found here

WHEN a new species of jellyfish was named the Bazinga in 2013, it made news around the world.

But it has now been revealed this famous marine creature was actually first photographed right here on the North Coast.

The jellyfish made headlines because it was named after the colloquialism used by Dr Sheldon Cooper, a character from the hit American TV program, The Big Bang Theory.

Marine biologists Lisa-Ann Gershwin and Peter Davie described the jellyfish from the holotype (a single type specimen upon which the description and name of a new species is based), which was collected in shallow water in the Brunswick River at high tide.

The full scientific name of the jellyfish is Bazinga rieki, named after Denis Riek, the Ocean Shores photographer who first photographed the creature.

"Lisa saw the shot of Bazinga amongst some other Brunswick River jellyfish images of mine and knew straight away that it was a new species," he said.

"I had no idea myself, I thought it might have been a juvenile of some foreign species.

"Didn't know much about jellyfish at that stage although I have developed more appreciation of them since."

The scientist asked Mr Riek to preserve any other jellyfish of that type if he ever came across it again, and to take it to Peter Davie at the Brisbane Museum.

"Didn't think that I would see another one but a few months later I came across several at Hastings Point and Seagull Rocks at Brunswick Heads, preserved them and had them dropped off at the museum," Mr Riek said.

"This was extremely fortunate as I have never seen another since then and I believe it has only been seen once on the Barrier Reef as well.

"If it had not been for Lisa's sharp eyes and expert knowledge, the jellyfish may well have stayed on my website and remained unnamed.

"She was very kind in naming the species after me as basically all I did was stumble across it."

Mr Riek said he hadn't done much photographic work in the Brunswick River recently because of its deteriorating environmental condition.

"I don't know if it is just a cycle that it is going through or that the pollution is affecting the biodiversity in the river, but one thing for sure is that this river is not what it use to be," he said.

"Many of the species that I photographed in the river a few years ago are no longer seen.

"A scientific analysis of the water quality might shed some light on why the river is suffering.

"It might look good at high tide but there is not much to see when one goes diving.

"That is why I have been focusing my attention on planktonic species that come in with the tide."

The science

Scientifically speaking, Bazinga is a genus of rhizostome jellyfish with only one known species, Bazinga rieki, found off the central eastern coast of Australia.

Bazinga rieki could not be placed in any known family or suborder of rhizostome jellyfish, so a new family Bazingidae was created.

It represents a new sub order of Rhizostomae, called Ptychophorae.

Bazinga rieki has a thick round translucent and colourless body, the upper surface of which is covered in tiny warts with yellow centres.

With a diameter of less than two centimetres, around the size of a grape, it is much smaller than any other rhizostome.

It has a large circular stomach that takes up over half the jellyfish's body and is visible from underneath.

The genus name, Bazinga, has two cultural references: firstly, as a colloquialism meaning "fooled you!" uttered by Dr. Sheldon Cooper in the television program The Big Bang Theory, as the small size means the species was probably mistaken as a juvenile of other species.

The term Bazinga the name of a seven string harp, and the Bazinga jellyfish also has straight radial canals going through its body reminiscing of a harp.

  • To see Denis Riek's photographic work visit his website: roboastra.com.


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