By Mary Curvey
Jellyfish are among the longest-living organisms ever discovered, and they are constantly changing as we speak. Although it is common knowledge that the ocean is vast and mostly undiscovered, new creatures are still being discovered all the time. The stereotypical jellyfish we see in popular media, like Finding Nemo, are simple, squishy, and cute, but most don’t fit the same format. They have evolved to a variety of shapes and colors to protect themselves and better catch prey. One of the wonderful things about these cnidarians, or aquatic invertebrates, is that they lack ‘vital’ organs, compared to most other organisms. Without eyes, lungs, brains, or even hearts, jellyfish defy all odds and conquer the ocean.
However, there is an exception, the Tripedalia maipoensis, named after the Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong, where it was discovered. This box jellyfish, the first found in the waters of China, has four clusters of six eyes each, giving it a total of 24 eyes. Each cluster is complete with a pair of image-forming eyes, and four light receptors. This is the only known jellyfish with eyes, and it was just discovered in April 2023.
Another jellyfish many people are discovering lately is called By-the-Wind Sailors, or Velella Velella. These jellies drift in large colonies, and have been washing up onto East Coast shores by the thousands! While alive, these creatures look like deep blue glass, complete with ripple textures in their “sails.” After they dry up on land and lose their saturation, they are often referred to as “crunchy carpets” by people who live near the covered beaches. Similar to the Portuguese Man-o-war, these jellyfish can’t control their movements and instead drift with nature’s currents, which leads them to terrorize unsuspecting tourists looking to sunbathe on the beautiful sand.
If you are interested in seeing some of these beauties up close and personal, the St. Louis Aquarium recently opened a moon jellyfish touch tank! This experience is free with any general admission ticket. I know I will be going this summer to discover one for myself!
Todays Jellyfish Facts:
- A Jellyfish group is most often called a sawm or bloom!
- Other terms you may see include: smack, brood, shoal, or stuck.
- Jellyfish are made up of 98% water (and 100% mystery)
- They have one hole they use to eat, which loops into a digestive tract and back out the same way the food entered!