December 2015: Lions Mane Jellyfish
Photo by: Dan Hershman
Lions Mane Jellyfish
Who am I?
I am water, salt water. Okay 95% of me is water, the other 5% is me. Of course when you have no bones, no heart, no blood and no brain it is hard to say what I am, who is the me. An eating machine I suppose I am. Around the Chesapeake people call me the winter jelly because I really do not like warm water. While my tiny medusa (bell like blob) is floating around by mid December you probably won't notice me until later in the winter when I get bigger. In the Bay I can grow to about 8" across. I am a very weird creature. During late winter as an adult I can produce both eggs and sperm. Once germinated, I carry these eggs in my tentacles until they hatch, to the bottom of the water I go and deposit them on something hard. Soon they grow and form a polyp -- a squishy stalk with, eventually, a stack on pancakes (called ephyraes) on top. Think of a sea anemone or a sea cucumber -- those guys are polyps. Here I will be through the summer. While I am a polyp I can also clone myself, just in case there are not enough of me already. So there are a lot of polyp me around. But wait, when the water gets cold in late November or December the stack of pancakes at the top of my stalk will start to separate floating off as individuals like little frisbees. These pancakes, or frisbees, will grow into the adult jellyfish you know and probably don't love. I am misunderstood. Sure, I sting, but not as bad as a sea nettle! They are mean. Besides I am only in the Bay during the winter and who is swimming around the bay in the winter! By May I am gone. No worries.
Where can you find me?
I like cold water and can be found near the north or south end of the planet. I am especially well known in the Arctic where I can grow really, really big.
What do I eat?
I eat mostly other jellyfish, little fish and plankton.
What might eat me?
Sea turtles. I hate sea turtles.
Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!
- I hold the world record for the largest jellyfish. One of my brothers/sisters was found on a beach with a medusa seven feet across and tentacles that were over 120 feet long! Don't worry, I don't get that big in the Bay.
- I have a lot of tentacles, up to 1200 of them.
- and coolest of all, I eat an poop with the same hole. Gross huh? But cool too.