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Bazinga The new Jellyfish In Town

Named after a catchy quote from Big Bang Theory’s Dr. Sheldon Cooper and its exclusive body morphology, Bazinga rieki is a new species of jellyfish discovered and named by Queensland scientists.

Bazinga rieki a not just a new species, but it is also placed in a new family called Bazingidae. The small, grape-sized jellyfish measure 15 to 20 millimeters at maturity, and was most probably mistaken in the past for a juvenile of its much bigger cousins. 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.
Marine biologists Lisa-ann Gershwin and Peter Davie described the jellyfish in 2013, from the holotype, which was collected in shallow water in the Brunswick River in northern New South Wales at high tide.

The specific epithet refers to Denis Riek, who photographed a specimen in northern New South Wales, leading to the discovery. The genus name, Bazinga, has two cultural references: firstly, as a colloquialism meaning “fooled you!” uttered by Dr. Sheldon Cooper in the TV program The Big Bang Theory, as the small size means the species was probably mistaken as a juvenile of other species, such as the similar Catostylus mosaicus; the term bazinga is also given to a seven-string harp, and the straight radial canals of this new species are reminiscent of such strings.

“The moment I saw the first photo, it was clear that it was very special,” says Gershwin, who has been based in Australia for the past 17 years. “The overall structure of its oral arms — the ruffly bits underneath — is wholly different from any other species.”

“It’s pretty rare to discover a new sub-order. This hasn’t happened for well over a hundred years” stated Lisa-ann Gershwin, one of the two marine scientists that discovered the new species. The species was recently described in the journal Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Nature.

Bazinga rieki’s name has a two-fold meaning: the first refers to the catch phrase Dr. Sheldon Cooper says on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. The second meaning refers to a seven-string harp, which the straight radial canals displayed by this species are reminiscent of in its body structure.

Lisa-ann was recently interviewed about the discovery on the Science Show from ABC Radio National, and the interview can be listened to here.

Bazinga rieki has a thick round translucent and colourless body, the aboral (upper) surface of which is covered in tiny warts with yellow centres. The subumbrellar muscle folds are golden-brown, their colour derived from zooxanthellae. With a diameter of less than 2 centimetres (0.79 in), 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. It has a hooded rhopalia rather than open pits, unlike any other rhizostome.

This isn’t the first time that “The Big Bang Theory” has enthused the naming of an animal. Earlier this year, it was reported that the TV show had inspired the naming of a newly discovered bee: the Euglossa bazinga.