A Smack of Jellies
The last little while there have been hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of Moon Jellies = a “smack” of them. That truly is the collective noun for jellyfish.
It should also be the collective noun for the number of jellyfish photos I am delivering in this blog.
May these photos from my last dives north of Port Hardy offer you a bit of escape. I tried to capture trees in photos of jellies and the reflection of the jellies against the surface of the water. I hope the images communicate interconnectedness of land, sea and sky. May they also contribute to understanding and connection to our neighbours in the sea.
Moon Jellies are easy to discern from other jelly species by having the clover shape which is 4 gonads / sex organs (Aurelia labiata to 40 cm across).
Most jellies in the class to which Moon Jellies belong (the Scyphozoan) release eggs and sperm into the water column. But in Moon Jellies, when the male releases sperm, the pulsing action of the female Moon Jelly brings the sperm in contact with the eggs under her arms and the are brooded there. The following three photos show females with eggs. The eggs are the less translucent white structures.
And as if this was not all amazing enough there was also a ” blizzard* of babies . . . just LOOK at how many juvenile Widow Rockfish there are!
It was so extraordinary to see them nipping at the bells of the Moon Jellies, darting about everywhere. There was another phenomenal explosion of young like this in 2016 and, with site fidelity being so strong, those fish may well be the bigger ones we saw at these sites too.
The following facts about Widow Rockfish are from Dr. Milton Love’s brilliant “The Rockfish of the NE Pacific”: The mothers produce one brood of about 95,000 to 1,113,000 eggs/year which hatch as larva from their mothers (rockfish are viviparous). They stay in the plankton for about 5 months feeding on copepods and krill and can grow up to 0.61 mm/day. Then they settle out to be in nearshore areas like you see here and feed on salps and jellies, small fishes, crabs, amphipods and krill.
Why are they named “Widow” Rockfish ? “. From Dr. Love’s book too: Julius Phillips, a great observer of the rockfish fisheries of California during the mid-twentieth century, believed the term widow can about because the “black peritoneum an small effeminate mouth give the impression of lonesomeness to occasional specimens that appear amount the more common bocaccios, chilipepper and yellowtail rock cods” (Phillips, 1939).
Maximum life expectancy for Widow Rockfish (Sebastes entomelas) is 69 years. Maximum length 60 cm. Females typically bigger than males.
The bounty of babies has been reported by myself and others to those monitoring rockfish health. To my knowledge, nobody knows why there have been these two explosions of young of this species (2016 and 2020).
And to conclude, I had hoped that I might also photograph a Lions Mane Jelly with land in the background. On the last dive of nine, the light and life lined up to allow me to take this photograph.
The Lion’s Many Jelly is one of two of the biggest jelly species commonly found off our coast = Cyanea ferruginea (the other is the Egg Yolk Jelly). Maximum size of Lion’s Mane Jellies is to 2.5 m across with 8 clusters of 70 to 150 tentacles which can be . . . 36 m long! This is the largest jelly species in the world. Know that the larger ones tend to be further offshore and that they can retract their tentacles. These two species are also the only two common jelly species in our waters that can create a sting that irritates human skin, even when the jellies are dead or you get a severed tentacle drifting by your face.
A Lion’s Mane Jelly is the murderer in a Sherlock Holmes short story entitled “Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” (I kid you not), BUT the “victim” had a preexisting heart condition. The solution to the irritation is vinegar (acid), meat tenderizer (enzyme) and I know that many fishers swear by Pacific canned milk. Research at this link puts forward that vinegar is the only real solution. Clearly I’ve never been stung badly enough to deter trying to photograph them.
Photo below is of planktonic me after a full dive trying to capture jellies and trees in the same image. Photo by dive buddy Janice Crook.