Ocracoke nature, flora & fauna

Ask the Observer: Which jellyfish or jelly?

From Greg Klein

This photo was taken at Springer’s Point. I think it is a jellyfish, but I am not sure. There were a few of them on the shore, but smaller or broken, and this was the only one I saw with the inside (body?) intact. Do you know what this is?

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Photo by Greg Klein

 

Answer:  Looking down at this  jelly does not provided  the overall  shape, but it looks like a Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris). 

As for how to describe these, Wikipedia offers this eplanation:
As jellyfish are not true fish (or even vertebrates), the word jellyfish is considered by some to be a misnomer. Public aquariums may use the terms jellies or sea jellies instead. The term “jellies” may have become more popular than “jellyfish.” In scientific literature, “jelly” and “jellyfish” are often used interchangeably. Some sources may use the term “jelly” to refer to organisms in this taxon, as “jellyfish” may be considered inappropriate.

For more information about this interesting species, we are reprinting a Spotted on Ocracoke Observer column which includes another photo of one also taken at Springer’s Point.

May 2008
Spotted on Ocracoke: The Cannonball Jellyfish
Photo and text by Peter Vankevich

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Cannonball Jellyfish. Photo by P. Vankevich

 

The Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris) may occasionally be seen in the waters around Ocracoke during the summer and fall months of the year when currents carry them to the shore.  The overall shape is that of a bell or cannonball from whence it gets its name. It grows up to the size of a small cantaloupe. Its color varies from overall clear to a yellowish wash and has a rufous/brown ring at the base.  Underneath, it has sticky oral arms which form into a rigid, short mound just below the bell.  Cannonballs also go by the names of Cabbagehead and Jellyball.

Jellyfish are marine invertebrates that lack basic sensory organs or a brain and consist of about 95% water. They do possess highly specialized nervous systems that allow them to perceive stimuli, such as light and odor. They may be found in all of the oceans from the arctic to the tropics. Since jellyfish are not fish, many people now refer to them as “jellies” or “sea jellies.”

Unlike other jellyfish (or jellies) that rely exclusively on currents and wind for movement, Cannonballs are strong swimmers and move by pumping water through their oral arms and catching their food which consists primarily of zooplankton including the larvae stages of veliger mollusks and red drum. They also have a much higher amount of protein than most other jellies which makes them a good food source and have also been used for medicinal purportedly for combating maladies such as arthritis in Asia. They are harvested in the waters off of Georgia and South Carolina and after a dehydration process are exported to China and Japan. Cannonballs are also an important food source for leatherback sea turtles and Atlantic spadefish.

In eastern North America, the primary range includes the Mid-Atlantic south and especially the Gulf of Mexico. With unusual currents, they may occasionally stray into the waters off of New England and as far south as Brazil.Cannonballs like other jellies may form large swarms called “blooms” consisting of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. There is concern that these blooms are increasing and may indicate an imbalance in the ecosystem; for example taking the place of  fish that have declined in numbers, or the increased presence of nutrients  in the water due to run-off from land. Although not considered to be stingers, one should refrain from touching them as there is a substance in the mucous that can cause a burning sensation if it gets in the eyes.

To play off the Wizard of Oz, for an animal with no brain, heart or bones, they, nevertheless, have an interesting story.  This photo was taken last October at Springer’s Point.