Jellyfish

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Jellyfish, Pacific Northwest

Phylum Cnidaria (Jellyfish) are invertebrates that are well known for their ability to sting, they have capsules in their tentacles that surround the mouth. We have around 75 different types of cnidarian living in the waters of the Pacific Northwest coastal region.

Many of these creatures are sessile, meaning that they attach themselves permanently at their base and do not move, like the sea anemones, although some can move about on a pedal disk, like a foot on a snail and can travel great distances. Jellyfish swim and drift about with the tides and over time can move great distances too.

Sea anemones are not plants, but predators that will attack and eat any small animal that strays within reach of their deadly tentacles. They come supplied with tiny poisonous darts and powerful enzymes that can dissolve a small animal in just minutes.

Sea anemones are animals belonging to the phylum Cnidaria, along with the jellyfish, corals and sea pens
Sea Anemones, Photo By Bud Logan

Sea anemones are animals belonging to the phylum Cnidaria, along with the jellyfish, corals and sea pens. They live in all oceans from the tidal shores to a depth of more than 10,000 meters and can range in size from one cm to almost two meters around. They can be seen attached to rocks, wharves, and even boats.

A sea anemone will use its tentacles to capture prey and to defend itself against predators. Their tentacles are covered with thousands of tiny stinging capsules called nematocysts. Each nematocyst contains a coiled hollow tubule. Some carry a tiny amount of poison that is capable of paralyzing or killing small fish and crustaceans.

Many sea anemones can be found on rocky shores where there are tide pools in which they can remain submerged when the tide goes out. Anemones out of water will retract their tentacles into their bodies to prevent drying and may appear to be little more than blobs on rocks. In the water they are such beautiful little creatures to observe, they are quite fascinating. When a small animal comes into contact with the Anemone, hundreds of these capsules open to fire their barbed tubules like darts. The anemone will sting and then hold its prey until it is subdued by the poison. It then moves the prey to its mouth and swallows it. Although there are many species that can inflict painful stings, none of Vancouver Island’s anemones are harmful to humans.

Some of our jellyfish here in the BC waters can cause great pain along with bad infections that can resist medical treatment for a long time, caution should be used around them, especially the sea blubber jellyfish.

Jellyfish feed on fish, crustaceans and some feed on plants. They in turn are eaten by various animals like the sea turtles who love them.
Sea Blubber Jellyfish, photo by Bud Logan

The Sea Blubber Jellyfish pictured above was about half a meter across the bell with some very long tentacles streaming out behind it.

The sea blubber jellyfish is also known as the lion mane jellyfish. It can have a bell that reaches up to a meter or more in size and its tentacles can be up to 9 meters long. You can find them from Alaska to California and they can be seen on all parts of the Pacific Northwest, they prefer inshore coastal waters.

They can be a red, brown, yellow, rose, violet or white in color with numerous long tentacles, you will find small fish inhabiting the underside of large bells. You must be very careful around these jellyfish as contact with the tentacles can cause severe burning and blisters that are very painful.

On the Atlantic side of Canada, there have been sightings of sea blubber jellyfish that reach up to 2.5 meters across the bell and tentacles of 20 meters.

The sea blubber jellyfish (also known as the lion mane jellyfish) can have a bell that reaches up to a meter or more in size and its tentacles can be up to 9 meters long.

These jellyfish are very beautiful to watch as they seem to pulsate through the tidal zones looking for a meal. The one in this video was about half a meter across, was quite fascinating to watch it move about.

The feed on plankton, small fish, other jellyfish, and small shrimp are the staple diet of the sea blubber jellyfish. It is an opportunistic carnivore and, to catch its prey, it entangles them with the powerful stings on its netted tentacles. Large Lion’s Mane Jellyfish have few natural predators, due to their size and the abundance of stinging tentacles they possess. However, the smaller ones may be preyed upon by large fish, sea birds, and sea turtles, the Leatherback sea turtle feeds on jellyfish.

The sea blubber jellyfish can be found in the deeper coastal waters and oceans of North America. The cold waters of the Arctic, Northern Atlantic, and Northern Pacific Oceans prove ideal for them. Watching them swim is almost hypnotic.

The sailfin jellyfish is carnivorous, but as it is not very large and its tentacles are not very long, it can only feed on tiny shrimp, plankton and very small fishes that swim close to the surface.
Sailfin Jellyfish, photo by Bud Logan
This jellyfish floats on the surface of the Pacific Ocean for most of its life. It starts out underwater during its larval stage and then floats on the surface throughout the rest of its life. The Velella or as we call them, sailfin jellyfish begin their lives in the middle of the ocean, sometimes after a prevailing wind, it will wash up on the shore in the thousands, l saw this last year on Vancouver Island. We were hiking on the northwest coast of the island and there were many thousands of them washed up on the beaches.

The sailfin jellyfish is carnivorous, but as it is not very large and its tentacles are not very long, it can only feed on tiny shrimp, plankton and very small fishes that swim close to the surface.  Its mouth is located in the middle of the underside of its body and it uses its tentacles to draw small fish to it. They, in turn, are eaten by floating snails, sea slugs and sunfish.

The sail of velella stands up diagonally across the disc. Not all sails are the same though, some go from right to left and others from left to right. This means that the wind and wave movement will send them sailing off in different directions, spreading them to all parts of the ocean. They can be seen mostly in tropical and temperate waters, and often wash up on a beach, dying in huge groups, sometimes they wind up in the north Pacific and wash up on Vancouver Island. They are quite the fascinating little creature for sure.

Although Velella toxins are pretty harmless to humans, you should not handle them and then touch your eyes. The toxins on your fingers can bring on some severe itching and irritation.

The moon jellyfish is very abundant in the Pacific Northwest and can also be found from Alaska to California. They are also known as moon jellyfish and as the Aequorea Victoria Jellyfish.

They can reach up to 12.5 cm across the bell and about 4 cm high. The thick and gelatinous bell has numerous white radial canals running lengthwise across the top, they are luminous at night and may have more than 1 species that look the same.

They are wonderful to watch as they swim about the surface, sometimes in the hundreds, looking like little alien creatures, l find them just fascinating to observe.

Water (moon) Jellyfish, Photo By Bud Logan
Water Jellyfish, Photo By Bud Logan
These little guys are members of the phylum Cnidaria, which includes such creatures as sea anemones, sea whips, and corals. Like all members of the order, their body parts radiate from a central axis. This allows jellyfish to detect and respond to danger or find food from any direction.

Jellyfish can sting and you should be careful around them, my wife as a child was always playing with them on her dad’s seine boat, then she would touch her eyes and suffer the rest of the day. So please be careful and wash up after touching one. These Jellyfish can sting humans but they don’t cause any real pain. In fact, many individuals don’t even realize that they have been stung by one when they are in the water. It isn’t until they get to shore and see the redness on their body or have an itchiness that they realize they have been stung.  Antihistamines can usually take care of any swelling and itching.

Water (moon) Jellyfish, Photo By Bud Logan
Water Jellyfish, Photo By Bud Logan

The Western coast of North America is where you will find these Jellyfish.  They are frequently found swimming around the shoreline. However, they can also be further out due to the wind and the water current. These Jellyfish have more control over their locomotion in the water than many other species of jellyfish. You can see them swimming along when you visit the docks along our coast, sometimes in the hundreds.

Jellyfish have remained unchanged for millions of years, they have been here for 300 million years before the dinosaurs. The jellylike creatures travel on ocean currents and are abundant in both cold and warm ocean water, they can be seen along all shores and as well, they thrive in deep waters.

They come equipped with stinging cells in their tentacles that they use to stun their prey before they eat them. Inside their bell-shaped body is an opening that is its mouth.

The stings can be painful to humans and sometimes very dangerous. But jellyfish don’t purposely attack humans. Most stings occur when people accidentally touch one, but if the sting is from a dangerous species, it can be deadly.

Jellyfish feed on fish, crustaceans and some feed on plants. They, in turn, are eaten by various animals like the sea turtles who love them.

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