Source: National Geographic Kids
There is no ultimate way to deal with social media, but we prefer to grab a giant bucket of popcorn and just watch as the news evolves. One day, you wake up to news of Mediterranean beach goers swimming with alien blue jellyfish; the next day, the government is deploying ninja turtles to fight off the alien invasion. At one point, you may want to get into a standing ovation, cheering "Good one, Marvel!" but then you remember it's just Egypt.
It's hard to say the common relationship with jellyfish is a love-hate one, more like 'stay-the-hell-away-you-blobby-freaks' relationship - only fair for a creature that has been recorded to sting an average of 150 million people per year. But if you take a closer look at jellies - which, by the way, amount to some 2,000 species - you'll find them much cooler than you thought they were.
Considered to be one of the oldest creatures on Earth, jellyfish are estimated to be around 600 million years old, predating many known creatures that have walked the Earth, including dinosaurs, insects, fungi, and even trees. Some speculate that the sheer simplicity of jellies, which are brainless, boneless, and bloodless, is the reason they have survived Earth’s five mass extinctions.
With bodies made up of 95% water, the blob-like creatures are highly versatile, enabling them to withstand many environmental changes that completely wiped out other species. Don’t forget of course their ability to clone themselves – which is a good enough reason for any species to survive extinction.
Putting the stinging aside, there’s a whole range of reasons to deeply contemplate and appreciate the massive family of jellies. If you never thought jellyfish could be your next source of fascination, take a look at this list of some of the coolest jellies pulsing through Earth’s open waters:
1. Immortal Jellyfish / Turritopsis nutricula
Image credits: Takashi Murai/ Source: Bored Panda
Found in: the Mediterranean and the waters of Japan.
No matter how long or brief, all creatures have an average life expectancy, except the turritopsis nutricula which can move backwards through its life cycle, transforming from an adult jellyfish into a younger polyp.
While humans may joke about not wanting to “adult,” immortal jellyfish take their protest against adulting quite seriously.
2. Lion’s Mane Jellyfish / Cyanea capillata
Image Credits: Alexander Semenov
Found in: cold regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, North Sea and Baltic, with specific prevalence near the east coast of Britain.
The lion’s mane jellyfish is the biggest known species of jellyfish, with bells that can grow up to 2.5 meters in diameter, and tentacles up to 30 meters or more in length. Despite its unsettling size, the lion mane is a rather peaceful jelly whose sting causes no more than temporary pain, with no records of fatality.
3. Irukandji Jellyfish / Carukia barnesi
Image Credits: Newspix/ Source: HuffPost
Found in: the marine waters of Australia and the USA.
It’s one thing to be fatally toxic, and a whole other thing to be toxic and barely visible. Belonging to the infamous wasp box family, an adult irukandji grows up to an estimate of one cubic centimeter. Besides its really small size – making it the smallest jellyfish to date – irukandjis are also almost transparent.
One sting of the irukandji will not kill you, but several are quite likely to. In this case, what doesn’t kill you is sure to put you through excruciating pain, including kidney pain, back pain, burning sensation, vomiting, headache and severe muscle cramps.
4. Sea Wasp Box Jellyfish / Chironex fleckeri
Image Credits: David Doubilet/ Source: National Geographic
Found in: coastal waters from northern Australia and New Guinea north to the Philippines and Vietnam.
Labeled as the deadliest jellyfish in the world, a sea wasp box will either kill you through its venom or the pain the venom causes – even before the venom has started to take effect, which can cause cardiovascular arrest within minutes. Geared with around half a million darts on each tentacle, a single microscopic dart is hypothetically capable of killing up to 60 people.
While some may think the Portuguese man o’ war is the deadliest jellyfish, it’s actually not considered a jellyfish despite its appearance, but rather a cluster of organs working together in tandem.
5. Darth Vader Jellyfish / Bathykorus bouilloni
Found in: the deep waters of the Arctic Ocean.
Derived from the Greek bathy meaning ‘deep’ and korus meaning ‘helmet,’ it’s obvious why this jelly was soon associated to the intergalactic evil overlord, Darth Vader.
Other jellies have also been named after celebrities such as Phialella zappai which was named after the musician Frank Zappa, as well as Amphinema rollinsi which was also named after a musician, Henry Rollins.
6. Crystal Jellyfish / Aequorea victoria
Image Credits: Phyllia131/ Source: DeviantArt
Found in: the waters off the west coast of North America.
This pulsing jelly is mostly popular for its bioluminescence – or in simpler words, its ability to glow in the dark. Different marine vertebrates and invertebrates function differently to produce such alluring bioluminescence, and in the case of the crystal jellyfish, it’s the combination of a photoprotein called aequorin and the green florescent protein (GFP) that gives it its glow.
In 2008, the Nobel Prize was jointly awarded to Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien for discovering and developing the GFP, and using it to track cellular activity that was previously invisible. The scientific feat was particularly utilized in studying diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
So next time you come across a swarm of jellies that may have deviated from their original homeland, washing up on your favorite beach, don’t forget that you’re in the presence of one of Earth’s oldest creatures – and a pretty miraculous one, too.