Jellyfish: Totally Under-Rated Beauties

When people enthusiastically talk about their favorite underwater animal encounters, most divers will mention whale sharks, manta rays, turtles etc… and while these are animals that certainly get your heart racing (they definitely do for me!), there is something about the majestic jellyfish that makes my heart sing with every graceful movement.

Much like sharks, Jellyfish tend to bring out feelings of fear and apprehension amongst scuba divers, snorkelers and swimmers alike…Understandably, since their tentacles are widely known to cause a world of pain if touched – even I have experienced the indescribable agony of being stung by the infamous Box Jellyfish. But rather than associating all Jellyfish with fear, that experience was a sobering reminder that all creations of nature are to be respected and appreciated. I have come across many different types of Jellyfish in nearly 3 years of living on Koh Tao and each encounter has had me researching more and more information about them. Here are some of my photos and a few little fun facts about these incredible creatures:

 

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They are food for a number of animals that live in the ocean such as turtles, big fish, small fish and sometimes even birds!

 

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Jellyfish provide a habitat for many types of juvenile fish. You will often find them living inside the bell or flitting around between the stinging tentacles. Some animals such as tiny crabs and brittle starfish can be found attached to the bell of the Jellyfish… they like to hitch a free ride to avoid moving around on their own.

 

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Fossils of Jellyfish are very rare because they lack a skeleton – however there has been evidence suggesting that their existence predates dinosaurs by 400 million years! Whoa…

 

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Jellyfish are typically very difficult to identify – there are around 1000-1500 known species in our oceans worldwide. This one is in the Chrysaora family, but which sub-species is it? Seriously, no idea 😛

 

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Jellyfish are invertebrates. They lack a backbone, heart, blood, brain, and gills and are in fact made up of over 95% water.

 

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Not all Jellyfish have the ability to sting… but some species possess millions of small stinging cells in their tentacles called Nematocysts. These cells are used to capture food by injecting toxin into the prey. Keep in mind that even if a Jellyfish has died or if the tentacles are severed, the Nematocysts stinging cells remain active for some time and therefore can still deliver a sting!

 

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It is actually relatively easy to protect yourself from the sting of a jellyfish… simply wear exposure protection such as a wetsuit when swimming/snorkelling/free-diving/scuba-diving in the ocean. Always look around for jellyfish while in the sea and keep a healthy respective distance when encountering one. If you find that you have been stung by one, start by removing any tentacles still stuck to you using gloves and a tweezer as soon as possible, irrigate the area with vinegar and only rinse with SEA WATER.

 

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Jellies are carnivorous animals and hunt their prey by using their tentacles as a drift net. They typically feed on plankton, crustaceans, fish eggs, small fish and other jellyfish. They also eat and poop using the *same* hole in the middle of the bell (ewwwww!).

 

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Did you know that a group of Jellyfish is called a “Swarm” or a “Smack”?

 

So there you go… a few fun and interesting facts about Jellyfish! Needless to say, I love and adore all jellyfish and would never hesitate at the chance at being in the water with them whether snorkelling or diving. They are totally fascinating and gorgeous animals with mesmerizing movements that actually has a calming effect… just please remember that all marine life should be respected – and maybe a small healthy dose of fear doesn’t hurt 🙂

 

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