Enter a far-out world where jellies dance, bloom and sting. These graceful and mysterious animals flaunt an array of fashions, from simple, see-through styles to vibrant colors with ruffles and beads. Some even glow when the light is just right.
In this Exhibit
Comb jellies are beautiful, oval-shaped animals with eight rows of tiny comblike plates that they beat to move themselves through the water. As they swim, the comb rows diffract light to produce a shimmering, rainbow effect. Voracious predators on other jellies, some can expand their stomachs to hold prey nearly half their own size.
These alien-looking creatures are named for their translucent, moonlike circular bells. Instead of long, trailing tentacles, moon jellies have a short, fine fringe (cilia) that sweeps food toward the mucous layer on the edges of the bells. Prey is stored in pouches until the oral arms pick it up and begin to digest it.
Down is up for this jelly—it rests its bell on the seafloor and waves its lacy underparts up toward the sun. Why? This jelly is a farmer. Its brownish color is caused by symbiotic algae living inside the jelly's tissues. By lying upside-down, the jelly exposes its algae to the sun, allowing it to photosynthesize. The jelly lives off food the algae produce, as well as zooplankton.
This jelly is commonly seen in Monterey Bay during spring and summer, sometimes in large groups. Growing to about four inches in diameter, a cross jelly's bell is rimmed with hundreds of fine white tentacles and is bioluminescent. Four white canals visible under the transparent bell form an obvious "X" pattern, after which the cross jelly was named.
- Jellies are more than 95 percent water. They don't have bones, brains, blood, teeth or fins.
- Simple, symmetrical bodies allow jellies to catch prey and avoid danger from any direction.
- Jelly tentacles are beaded with thousands of stinging cells that stun prey by injecting a dose of toxins.
- A jelly can grow or shrink according to the available food supply. If the cupboard is bare, jellies can "de-grow," shrinking in size so they need less food. They can re-grow again when food is more plentiful.