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Jellyfish Transparent Disks Of Beach Life

Updated on August 21, 2014
Jellyfish swimming
Jellyfish swimming | Source

I never gave those flimsy transparent disks of life that float in every sea much thought until I stood beside a giant hulk of a man, brought to his knees -- screaming over being stung by one. It was a shocking sight, because the jellyfish literally covered the side of his face. Before that day on Daytona Beach, Florida, they just seemed so innocent looking.

Up until then, I was just fascinated by their common peculiarity of being an all round structure, so to speak. That is, they have no "sides," but are circular and symmetrical to a central axis.

However, there are a multitude of "sides" to jellyfish, that don't meet the eye. There are also a lot of myths and misinformation about jellyfish that take "no sides" to a whole never level. Staring with the fact that they are not fish, but a species called "cnidarians."

Before I tell you about all of that though, I'll tell you what most people do know -- that jellyfish, while at first sight, appear to be the most defenseless of creatures, they actually have their stings and poisoned barbs that are most powerful -- as the man on the beach found out.

Porpita porpita (Blue Buttons) washed ashore, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (not a jellyfish but a Chondrophores
Porpita porpita (Blue Buttons) washed ashore, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (not a jellyfish but a Chondrophores | Source

Nature's Exceptions

Aside from being circular, symmetrical, and tied to a central axis -- jellyfish have no complicated internal divisions of the body, like the higher animals. They are instead furnished with a complex digestive system which is not a closed canal, as we should expect to find. Instead, the whole interior of the body is a digestive system.

All of nature's rules are broken when the truth comes out about certain species of jellyfishes. For instance, the Ctenophora (Comb-jellies) have no stinging cells, but instead multitudes of tiny adhesive disks which clutch and secure minute prey.

Then, another of the exceptions in the jellyfish world, is the lovely Venus's Girdle -- which is not circular, like the rest. It exists as a broad ribbon of exquisite life, fringed with cilia which bring food within range. Some of this group have taken to creeping along the sea bed, and so have assumed a drawn out two-sided form.

Still another exception in the jellyfish world, is the Caelenterata, which is an example of a dazzling contrivance on the part of mother nature, for distributing her family, in what is called "alteration of generations." It is not peculiar to this group, but here we have a fine example of the method.

Suppose we have a jellyfish mass which, as with sponges, includes many individual jellyfish which budded from the original parent, but remained attached to it? If these went on budding and growing, the mass would become inconveniently large.

Furthermore, if the component parts all produced eggs, they would overcrowd the sea in their neighborhood and bring about starvation for themselves and all their kind.


Transparent Jellyfish
Transparent Jellyfish | Source

A Closer Look At What Happens

The many-in-one are technically called a "stock." Parts of the stock, charged with eggs, break away, like the gemmules of the sponge, float off, and colonize some new area of water, where the eggs are produced.

Some of these sink and form new stocks, which will bud off new attached members. Others of the eggs, however, will hatch straightway into free-swimming jellyfish.

The plan is ancient and has been employed in many forms of life by Nature. In the jellyfishes -- it has succeeded wonderfully.

This type of jellyfish is represented in all waters, from our own shores, through the tropics, and away toward the waters of both the Poles.

One would expect the warm-water regions to produce the giants, and mighty forms of jellyfish -- but probably the chill of the waters of the far north and south, that in actuality causes this -- because the colder waters contain the titans of the jellyfish world.

Swimming Jellyfish
Swimming Jellyfish | Source

Protector Of Orphans

On the diet of jellyfish is tiny larvae of oysters, whelks, eggs of fish, little crustaceans, tiny bristle worms, and multitudes of algae. While the jellyfish is a free feeder, and takes things that might become food for man -- it also swallows the enemies of our fishes and mollusks, and in some cases is the benevolent nursemaid to many kinds of fishes.

It's another surprise to note that baby herrings, baby codfish, and a multitude of other friendless orphans in the sea, which later may come to the table of man in breadcrumbs, or batter -- look to the jellyfish for shelter. You might be wondering why the jellyfish does not sting them to death as it stings other fish?

The answer to that is that certain crustaceans whose hard coats make them indifferent to its stings, play the brigand to the jellyfish. They attach themselves to it and actually take the food out of its mouth. That is disastrous to the jellyfish's prospects of long life but it works.

Then, the little fishes which it shelters are the very ones which need crustaceans as the main part of their diet. So when the robber is pillaging the mouth of the jellyfish, the welcome fish swim up and devour the intruder.

For that act of service, they are entertained without harm by the master of barbs and stings. But, let an enemy of those fish pursue them within range of the jellyfish, then out go the stings, and the foe is either stunned and caught, or so severely punished that it is glad to escape with bare life.

It's important to know that unlike many other species on this planet and in the ocean or sea -- jellyfish are not too worried about becoming extinct or endangered.  The opposite is happening, as we lose more and more of their predators -- some species of them are multiplying so fast that they are becoming a threat both to us and others who live in the waters with them.

Holding Jellyfish in hand
Holding Jellyfish in hand | Source

The Jellyfish Surprise

Jellyfish life extends into many species and is complicated and fascinating. In general, we know that the body, a mass of glassy jelly included between the upper and lower sides of the bell (or umbrella), bears a number of arms (or tentacles), and that form these tissue, the abominable stinging barbs.

These are tiny threads with a dart-like head, which lie coiled lasso-like in batteries of minute "thread-cells." They are violently ejected when touched, and cause severe aching pain, as they penetrate the skin.

In the highest form of jellyfish -- the Siphonophora, something really interesting takes place. It has the same systems of stocks and single individuals as in other species of jelly fish -- but is more highly developed.

They are often referred to today as "jellyfish blooms." Here in a single floating mass, they have congregated together, a series of individuals united together, yet recognizable as many in one.

Now normally, we think of honeybees and others as more socialistic or eusocial, as some species are quite unselfish at first glance.The jellyfish surprise, is that such jellyfish colonies are more socialistic than a community of ants or bees. It's labors are subdivided yet co-ordinated, as in mass production in a factory.

There are jellyfish in the united mass which propel the whole colony along, their function being to take in water, contract, and squirt it out, and in that way row the living city about.

Then, there are others which guard the colony from offense, like the huge-jawed soldiers of the warrior ant colonies.

In addition, there are the members which produce eggs or buds, and finally those which collect the food, digest it, and pass the nutritive result, from end to end of the entire body of many individuals in one.

As fascinating a miracle study in cooperation, these same jellyfish colonies are a nightmare for fishermen around the world.

They can weigh over four hundred pounds, ruin the fish in them, and put the fishermen at risk as they get stung trying to remove them from their nets.

Turritopsis nutricula
Turritopsis nutricula | Source

The Jellyfish That Never Dies

Ponce de Leon could have saved himself and his crew a lot of heartaches and trouble searching for the Fountain of Youth, if only he could have studied what might be the only one of earth's immortal beings -- the species of jellyfish known as the Turritopsis nutricula.

Jellyfish usually have short life spans, ranging from a few hours in some species to six months in others. This species, however, through cell changes in the exumbrella transforms itself into a stolon by turning itself inside out. Then the middle section and tentacles are reabsorbed, and the polyp spawns. It's a little complicated, but it's a reverse life-cycle that allows the jellyfish to not die and pretty much makes it biologically immortal forever and ever reproducing its own self.

Immortal Jellyfish

Man of War Jellyfish (aka Blue Bottle Jellyfish)
Man of War Jellyfish (aka Blue Bottle Jellyfish) | Source

Portuguese Man o' War - Beautiful But Wickedly Deadly

In some ways, the Portuguese Man-of-War (Siphonophora)is the crowning glory of jellyfish perfection. It's a thing of exquisitely radiant colors of blue and shiny purples, supported at the water surface by a float like a luminous inflated sack, eight or ten inches long and six inches in diameter -- with a living nursery attached to its under-side, and stinging tentacles many feet long streaming out like a corrosive battery far in the water.

Forget the vinegar, pee, and alcohol -- Here are some tips for dealing with stings from this jellyfish stings:

  • Remove any tentacles with anything that allows you to not touch it directly or add to the injury.
  • Rinse the sting thoroughly with salt water and sand to remove any hidden tentacles.
  • Cover the sting with ice as quickly as possible.
  • If stung near or around the eyes rinse continuously for at least fifteen minutes in tap water (not salt water). Then seek medical attention, especially if encountering blurred vision, swelling, or if your eyes become light sensitive.
  • After first aid use hydro cortisone ointments several times a day and over-the-counter Benadryl).

Remember-- formerly vinegar was a popular remedy but is now no longer recommended for Portuguese man-of-war stings. Likewise, meat tenderizer and baking soda can further damage the injured area.

Note: Two hours after Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish are dead, they can still sting you

Box Jellyfish - Tiny but dangerous
Box Jellyfish - Tiny but dangerous | Source

Box Jellyfish -- Lethal Encounters On The March

If the ocean could come with a warning label, it would read:

"Don't go near the water, whenever and wherever Box Jellyfish are found."

Weighing less than an ounce, and almost invisible, jellyfish that is absolutely deadly. They are showing up in new and more places every day -- including Florida and Hawaii. This one jellyfish is considered to be one of the most deadly venom bites in the world. It contains poisons that will cause those who come into contact with it in the water to quickly go into shock, drown, or die of heart failure -- all before they can get out of the water.

This is because the toxins in the venom simultaneously attacked the heart, nervous system, and even skin cells. Massively painful, even if someone is lucky enough to survive -- the victims are in horrible pain for weeks and are scarred for life wherever the tentacles have touched them.

You have virtually no chance of surviving the venomous sting, unless treated immediately. The pain is so excruciating and overwhelming that you would most likely go into shock and drown before reaching the shore. So don't go swimming alone! Be sure to know the first aid procedures.

In the case of the Box Jellyfish there are four rules for immediate first aid while awaiting medical help:

  1. Pour large amounts of vinegar over the tentacles to deaden them as quickly as possible.
  2. Never ever use alcohol of any kind.
  3. Perform CPR or be prepared to preform CPR
  4. While waiting for medical help and anti-venom, try pressure immobilisation on limbs after inactivation of stinging tentacles cells.

Box jellyfish should be one of the many reasons people should not ever go swimming alone. You have virtually no chance for survival without immediate medical help. The pain from this one species of jellyfish is greater than you can imagine.

Box Jellyfish -- Irukandji

So Who Eats The Jellyfish?

First of all, other jellyfish eat jellyfish. The jellyfish also has to look out for being eaten by tuna, shark, swordfish, one species of Pacific salmon, and sea turtles.

Mankind of course, is also the predator of the jellyfish as in many cultures eating a certain type of jellyfish (particularly in Asia) is common on the menu.

The menu consists of Rhizostomeae (scyphozoan jellyfish), of which there are about eighty-five species, twelve of which that are considered edible.


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    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks myawn! I prefer to get up close and personal via marine parks.

    • myawn profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      Jellyfish have always been scary to me. I stay away from them at the beach Nice infor on them.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks C. M. Britt! Jelly fish are quite fascinating.

    • C. M. Britt profile image

      C. M. Britt 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for a very informative hub...

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Joy At Home! Jellyfish often invade beaches during certain times of the year more than others. They are seen much more often than ever before.

    • Joy At Home profile image

      Joilene Rasmussen 

      9 years ago from United States

      Another very cool hub, Jerilee. My kids enjoyed the videos, and I was spellbound the whole way through.

      I've always been fascinated by ocean life, though I've only visited a coastline (California) once, and didn't have time to do anything fantastic while I was there. Maybe another time. Of course, let's hope getting stung by jellyfish isn't on the agenda...

    • my-success-guru profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate NY

      Hi Jerilee, Very insightful Hub on Jelly fish!

      To Your Success,


    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks James A Watkins! Pondering is good.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Once again, your diligent research yields new information for me to ponder. Thank you very much!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Steve Rensch! I'm a native Californian myself, and it was my first school field trip in Long Beach that got me interested in the deep blue sea. On the homemade remedies there's a lot of debate. Sand definitely works, but the common thought it that after a certain time period the pain lessens and vinegar and pee only seem to work? I don't know. Urine isn't recommended because of bacteria.

      Thanks Nancy's Niche! So much in the oceans we don't know that's for sure.

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      9 years ago

      Jellyfish are amazing and beautiful underwater life forms. Thanks for imparting your vast knowledge concerning varieties and caution...WOW, you did some research here---good job!

    • Steve Rensch profile image

      Steve Rensch 

      9 years ago

      I grew up surfing in California, so I was stung many times. But never by these scary ones you talk about. For us, wet sand and pee were enough. Not anymore, I guess. Even though that time made me knowledgeable about jellyfish, they still fascinate me. And I know the explosion of them is almost impossible to contain because, when you kill them, they immediately release their millions of eggs. Your hub is outstanding.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Aya! Actually, it was your recent hub that reminded me to write this one. When I was a young mom I very much wanted to work in marine biology but circumstances prevented me from getting the necessary education at the time. So I read everything I could get my hands on when it came to sea life. Might as well share what little I learned.

      Thanks meishomecorner!

      Thants Melody Lagrimas!

      Thanks emohealer!

      Thanks Anthony James Barnett!

      Thanks atikamon!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      nice information, thanks for these.

    • profile image

      Anthony James Barnett - author 

      9 years ago

      Very interesting, well researched. Thanks once again, Jerilee.

    • emohealer profile image

      Sioux Ramos 

      9 years ago from South Carolina

      I was amazed all the way through this hub! I knew of jellyfish and that was about it. So much to learn, what a great presentation of useful information. Thank You!!!

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 

      9 years ago from Philippines

      This is a very informative hub, thanks.

    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 

      9 years ago from Mississippi

      very informitive

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Wow! Immortal jelly-fish! I never knew that! You never cease to amaze me with new information, Jerilee.

      The other thing that I thought was worth noting was how the clip on this subject was made. "If you can type, you can make a movie." Definitely something to look into.

      You have opened up two new possibilities with this hub: immortality and movie making!


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