By Mary Curvey (a hardcore jellyfish fan)
Hello curious readers! Summer 2023 was a busy one for jellyfish-related news and exploration! I traveled around both online and, in the States, to see some new and exciting siphonophores, and I’m excited to show all of my findings!
Over the summer I had the chance to see the Peach Blossom jellyfish up close and personal! In a small pond in Shawnee Park located in Louisville, Kentucky, is a rare unexplained bloom of these freshwater jellyfish thriving! The park officials theorize they could have hitched a ride on some of the imported plants near the pond, but it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere else now! Since they are no bigger than a dime, they feed on tiny algae and are harmless to the life around them. Indeed something unique to experience in person!
In the last Jellyfish Update back in May, I announced that Missouri’s St. Louis Aquarium has a brand-new moon jellyfish touch tank, and I finally got to try it out myself! Free with admission, this is a huge tank full of moon jellyfish you can actually pet! When touching them, you only want your hands near the top of the bell. If you touched the bottom, they could cause a small burning-sting reaction, but you could also hurt the jellyfish. Touching the tentacles and inside the bell would be similar to someone touching inside your stomach – gross, uncomfortable, and possibly causing injury. When touching the top, these moon jellyfish are soft and smooth, and feel much more like a thick muscle than I imagined! They still have a light squish to them, but they bounce back more than you may expect! Embarrassed to say how emotional it made me to finally make contact with these creatures I love so dearly.
If you searched anything related to jellyfish or the beach in the news this summer, you were sure to see countless articles headlining “invasive” jellyfish flooding the shores. While this can be pretty common, it seems there are a lot more reports than in the past years. To combat this, many beach towns now offer jellyfish sting kits, which include heat packs, sting sprays (which can range from just vinegar-based to more complex formulas), and anti-inflammatory creams. When visiting any tropical locations, it can be hard to avoid these creatures in the water but remember to stay safe by not touching any shore-bound jellyfish, as their stinging cells are still alive even when the jellyfish may be dead!
Finally, I did get my hands on the beautiful book Shapeshifters: The Wondrous World of Jellyfish by Dr. Lisa-Ann Gershwin which was released earlier this year. Over 200 pages of beautiful photography and documentation of some of the jellyfish that have been discovered. One of my personal favorites is the “Long Stingy Stringy Thingy” otherwise known as Rhizophysa filiformis. The author, Gershwin, is renowned for her discoveries, having helped find over 200 species of jellyfish and one kind of dolphin. She has written a few other books, Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, and Jellyfish: A Natural History that are just as beautiful as her latest publishing.
As always, here are today’s Jellyfish Facts:
- They aren’t actually fish! They are Siphonophores which are highly polymorphic and complex organisms!
- Jellyfish have no brain, heart, lungs, or blood! Some can have eyes, but overall, they are mainly a nervous system!
- They can have as many as 1,000 offspring when they reproduce, but only 1% live on average- with more pollution in the water protecting them and the temperatures rising more are living than ever before, causing many jellyfish to overpopulate.
Geist, Gilda. “Jellyfish out in Force This Year.” CapeNews.Net, 25 Aug. 2023, www.capenews.net/falmouth/news/jellyfish-out-in-force-this-year/article_1c7d290f-7a77-5aa0-aa37-37d0b4a6fde6.html.
Gershwin, Lisa-ann. Shapeshifters: The Wondrous World of Jellyfish. Abrams, 2023.
Keck, Matthew. “Did You Know There Are Jellyfish at Shawnee Park?” WLKY, WLKY, 9 June 2023, www.wlky.com/article/jellyfish-shawnee-park-louisville/44158583#.
McCarthy, Christine. “Jellyfish Sting Kits in High Demand at Cape Cod Beach Community.”
Boston 25 News, Boston 25 News, 18 Aug. 2023, www.boston25news.com/news/local/jellyfish-sting-kits-high-demand-cape-cod-beach-community/IQLBTBKJYNE45D7IDX32M7YHDE/.