St. Vincent – Oh boy! Another species for our life lists. We recognized the pulsing creature as a jellyfish, but would not have known it was the jellyfish, had we not been alerted to its existence by Bud Gillan, a teaching colleague of Ned’s from years back. Bud, now teaching AP and Honors Biology in South Florida, had been tracking this species for nearly a decade. He showed us a photo of the then undescribed jellyfish when we met up with him a number of years ago in Bonaire. The box jelly, with distinctive brown and white-banded tentacles, had earned the common name, Bonaire banded box jelly, because the vast number of reported sightings came from that island. But there we were in St. Vincent, a different area of the Caribbean, so we gave chase, determined to document its presence in those waters. Mission accomplished and the photos and information were forwarded to Bud.
News of the official naming of the jellyfish came last spring when Bud sent us a copy of the paper, published in Zootaxa. He is one of the co-authors: Naming the Bonaire banded box jelly, Tamoya ohboya, n. sp. (Cnidaria: Cubozoa: Carybdeida: Tamoyidae). To us, one of the most delightful aspects of this study was the contest to name the species. As part of the 2009 Year of Science celebration, the public was invited to submit proposed names and their reasons. Public Internet voting selected the name submitted by marine biology teacher Lisa Peck: Tamoya ohboya.
I was happy to be able to add an official name to my personal life list of Caribbean invertebrates. Here is a bit of video of Tamoya ohboya. In it, the first was the St. Vincent specimen (I was on snorkel; Ned was below me on SCUBA). The second specimen was one I encountered two years ago in Bonaire – it is accompanied by a very tiny filefish and jack.