Considering that marine scientists have only explored five percent of the ocean, it is expected for us to learn new things about the way marine life works. In December of 2015, a monumental event was logged into oceanic history when Tim Samuel photographed an amazing shot of a tiny trevally fish embedded in the umbrella of a small and energetic jellyfish in Byron Bay, Australia.
The photograph was captured by complete chance as Samuel and his videographer, Franny Plumridge, snorkeled near a protected reef that is known for its dense population of marine life. Samuel’s goal for that day was to photograph an assortment of sea turtles that routinely swim in the diverse ecosystem; however, his focus was completely diverted when he came across the unusual sight of the trevally fish occupying the inside of the jellyfish.
At first glance, it was difficult for Samuel to tell if the fish was content or if the fish was traumatized. The confusion stems from the fact that the trevally fish are typically known to hide from its predators under the cover of jellyfish stingers; however, based on marine data, Samuel’s discovery had never been photographed before.
When Samuel had first spotted the fish, his initial reaction was to set it free, but he ultimately decided to leave the pair alone and to let nature take its course. Samuel figured that the best thing to do was to follow and photograph the odd couple, which resulted in a 30-minute journey that revealed some interesting behavior patterns between the two.
Samuel had noticed that there was a constant tug of war between the pair for control over the proverbial steering wheel. In some instances, the fish was able to control the direction that it wanted to swim in, and in other instances, the jellyfish redirected the fish’s navigation course and even swam in rapid circles, which may have been an attempt to expel the unwanted visitor.
After Samuel had returned to his house in Byron Bay on that evening, he logged into Instagram and posted a single image of the trevally fish, which appeared to have had an expression of fear in its eyes as it peered through the transparent body of its host. His photo received many likes and over 100 comments, such as, “Real or not real?”
As the months passed by, Samuel continued his normal routine of photographing marine life along the Australian coast. Suddenly, out of nowhere, on June 4, 2016, Samuel’s life received a jolt of excitement when he started receiving a torrent of phone calls regarding his remarkable photo. The heightened attention was a result of Discovery Ocean re-posting his original photo to its popular Instagram page. Within a few days, the re-posted image received over 20,000 likes, and the photo went viral all across the world. As a result of the media attention, it was confirmed by a number of marine biologists that the fish had most likely embedded itself into the jellyfish for its own protection from predators. It was also revealed that the fish would have been able to eat while it was in its parasitic state and that it could have willingly separated from its host at any time.