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Discovery Magazine 6/1/2008

Neither Jelly Nor Fish

Have you ever walked along the beach and seen a blob of jelly-like goop lying in the sand? One of your parents probably told you not to touch it, since you could be stung! Found in every ocean in the world, jellyfish are not really fish. They are recognized for their bell or dome-shaped top. Most jellyfish have tentacles that hang down from the dome and are covered with thousands of tiny poisonous, stinging cells. These cells explode when they brush against objects, firing small harpoons that inject poison into their victim.

Jellyfish (also called “jellies”) have no head, brain, heart, eyes, ears, or bones. They range in size from about one inch to seven feet in diameter, with the tentacles of some species reaching over 100 feet long. When large numbers of jellyfish drift together as a group, they are called a “swarm,” “bloom,” or “smack.” Jellyfish have a nerve net that consists of cells that detect light, odor, and other movement.

Jellyfish are a very important part of the marine food chain of the world’s oceans. God designed jellyfish to drift slowly with the ocean currents, rather than swimming like fish. Yet, jellyfish move in such a way that they create a current, forcing their prey within reach of their tentacles. They are carnivorous, feeding on small fish and microscopic plankton. They use their four to eight oral arms to transport food to their mouths. Larger species of jellyfish can capture and devour large crustaceans and other marine organisms. In turn, spadefish, sunfish, sea turtles, and other marine organisms like to eat jellyfish.

Even some people like to eat jellyfish. The mushroom and cannonball jellyfish are considered a delicacy by humans. Lots of pickled or semi-dried mushroom jellyfish are eaten in China and other Asian countries—a multi-million dollar part of the seafood business. Jellyfish are also helpful to humans in other ways. Scientists in the field of biotechnology use jellyfish for genetic engineering experiments. Jellyfish are even being harvested for their collagen (a necessary protein in human tissue) to help treat ailments like arthritis. The jellyfish is yet another example of God’s marvelous design in nature.

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