10 Fascinating Facts About Jellyfish
Anyone who has seen a jellyfish’s dome-shaped body pulsating through the water, tentacles dangling behind, can testify that they are both an intimidating and intriguing sight. That’s because Jellyfish are some of the Earth's most ancient animals, even older than dinosaurs! Jellyfish are not fish, which is quite counterintuitive, because a fish’s anatomy is centered around its backbone, whereas the jellyfish is a dome-shaped invertebrate. They are indeed mystical creatures of the oceans, so here are 10 fascinating facts about Jellyfish!
Jellyfish have no bones, so fossils are hard to come by. However, there is scientific evidence that these creatures have been bobbing along in the world's oceans for at least 500 million years. The jellyfish’s lineage goes back even further, possibly 700 million years ago. That's roughly three times the age of the first dinosaurs!
One look at a jellyfish and this might seem rather obvious, but they aren't fish. They are invertebrates from the phylum Cnidaria, and are so varied as a taxonomic group that many scientists have taken to simply referring to them as "gelatinous zooplankton." They are basically floating blobs in the ocean.
They have a rudimentary nervous system but have no brain. The Jellyfish has a loose network of nerves located in the skin called a "nerve net", which controls its behavior and basic functions such as swimming and eating. They also don't have a heart because their bodies are so thin that they can be oxygenated solely by diffusion.
Jellyfish seem to blend in with their environment, undulating gently with the ocean's currents, and with good reason: Their bodies are made up of as much as 98% water. When they wash ashore, they can disappear after just a few hours as their bodies evaporate into the air.
It might not sound very appetizing, but jellyfish do not have separate openings for eating and pooping. They have one orifice that does the job of both the mouth and the anus. Yuck! But that's also beautiful in a minimalist sort of way.
You won't find them on many restaurant menus, but jellyfish are edible and are eaten as a delicacy in some places, such as in Japan and Korea. In fact, in Japan jellyfish have been transformed into candy. A sweet and salty caramel made out of sugar, starch syrup, and jellyfish powder has been produced by students to make use of the jellyfish that often plague the waters there.
NASA first started sending jellyfish to space aboard the Columbia space shuttle back in the early 1990s to test how they might get along in a zero-gravity environment. Why? Interestingly, both humans and jellyfish rely on specialized gravity-sensitive calcium crystals to orient themselves. (These crystals are located inside the inner ear in the case of humans, and along the bottom edge of the mushroom-like bodies of jellies.) So studying how jellyfish manage in space can reveal clues about how humans might also fare.
Don’t let SpongeBob fool you. All jellyfish have stinging structures, some even are capable of killing an adult human with a single sting in just a few minutes. The box jellyfish for example reportedly carries enough venom to kill more than 60 humans. To make matters worse, their stings are excruciatingly painful — it's said the pain could kill you before the venom does!
Melanie Roberts, Senior Aquarist at SeaWorld Orlando, says that the largest jellyfish in the world is a lion’s mane jellyfish. The body of this beautiful bioluminescent orange jelly can grow up to three feet in diameter and have 12,000 tentacles that can grow 120 feet long! This makes it comparable to the size of a blue whale!
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