Jellyfish and other wonders

Cnidarians. Schyphozoa. Hydromedusae. Science is full of these amazing Latin words that evoke the world’s riches, and the words are no more beautiful than the creatures they name.

You can watch them, well…I could watch them for hours. A graceful inhaling-exhaling dance through the water, a ripple of translucent flesh that catches the light as they pulse effortlessly through the world’s oceans. They are a wonder of gelatinous color and texture.

Though many of them are almost invisible in the ocean. They have no internal systems, breathing through the diffusion of oxygen through their skin, absorbing nutrients through the lining of their gastrovascular cavity. They do not have a nervous system but a nerve net.

The large groups of them found in the oceans are called blooms.

There are males and females, but they don’t really mate. That would have been another wonder to behold. Instead they release eggs and sperm (in a multitude of different ways), which combine and form tiny polyps. Attached to a surface, these polyps grow, and they reproduce asexually…releasing tiny jellies or medusas into the great watery world. It’s extraordinary. What happens to the polyps after this? Do they ever long for freedom?

Medusa of the water, I love that image…another kind of mermaid. One with snakes. One that flowers, stings, kills, eats its own. Moves through the oceans, sometimes with a will, sometimes without.

And some of them are fixed…the upside-down jellyfish:

They have traded their freedom for a symbiotic relationship with the things that live in their tentacles, generating nutrients…

I’ve had a nature documentary sort of weekend really, we went to the California Academy of Sciences, the amazing new(ish) museum in Golden Gate Park, we waited ages to get in but it was entirely worth it. They have nautili. And peacock shrimp. And sculpins and lumpfish. And giant sea bass and these sea horses with amazing leaves to camouflage them and an albino alligator and a lion fish and a COELOCANTH! Holy shite, the prehistoric fish that they thought had been extinct for millions of years before one popped up suddenly in the 30’s some time. Or was it the 20’s? Amazing either way. The Coelocanth is sitting in formaldehyde of course. And a lungfish, the fish that can breath in air and water, a key for how evolution could have happened and the emergence of life from water to land. And a giant salamandar. Several feet long, one of the more amazing things I’ve ever seen.

And then the Aquarium on the Bay, which I also loved…I’m going to learn to scuba dive. It’s decided. And there have been other adventures, but more soon.


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