Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Posts tagged ‘jellyfish’

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.

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away . . .



In a galaxy far, far away . . .

Oh wait no, this was yesterday, diving in a soup of Red Eye-Medusa.

Imagine the water thick with plankton to the extent that it actually feels soupy, and throughout, these jellies are suspended . . . like little, living fairy lights in the dark.

When the visibility is poor like this, it of course limits what else can be seen. But, when you’re in the dark, that’s where you are and that’s where there is still much learning to be done and beauty to be seen.

Yep = life metaphor.

Polyorchis penicillatus are up to 10 cm in size and they are “sink fishing” when hanging like this (detail below).

Look at the bottom of the bell for the red “eyes” (eyespots / ocelli). These can sense light intensity, helping the jelly know which way is up.

The stomach is in the middle and the gonads are the elongate organs surrounding that. Species has up to ~160 tentacles (more often around 100). This jelly species makes “hopping” motions. In part, this is believed to help when feeding near the seafloor by stirring up prey (true story).

More detail on feeding from the University of Oregon:
They feed in both the water column and on the bottom, using different methods for each (Mills et al. 2007). On the bottom, they perch on their tentacles and eat benthic organisms by touching the sediment with their manubrium [stomach with mouth at tip]. Sometimes, they will hop on the sediment, likely to stir up possible prey or move to a new location (Mills 1981, 2001). In the water column, they use “sink fishing” to find their prey. During sink fishing, the medusae extend their tentacles out from their bell and let the distal ends sink downward. They either maintain their position in the water column or sink slowly and catch prey with their tentacles. When a prey item touches a tentacle, the medusa will use that tentacle to bring the prey to the manubrium, though large prey sometimes require more tentacles; this process causes cessation in swimming and crumpling (Arkett 1984).”


Another Red-Eye Medusa at the same site in Port Hardy.
Species of sea star on the anchor chain is a Leather Star.

Source of annotated diagram below and ALL you wish to know about the species:

Polyorchis penicillatus, A publication of the University of Oregon Libraries and the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology Individual species.

Submerge . . .

Come away with me . . . spend 3 minutes submerged in the shallows of the eastern North Pacific, photographing jelly species.

There is no place I’d rather be than here, learning about the richness and wonder of life in these cold waters.

With huge gratitude to Roger McDonell – underwater videographer and dive buddy supreme – for having taken this video.




Video taken during our weekly dive as the Top Island Econauts Dive Club.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish – Sherlock You Are Wrong!

I had a wonderful opportunity to photograph and film a lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea ferruginea) today.

The 1.5 minute annotated video clip below will give context to my “Sherlock – You Are Wrong” statement.  

Click here to see a short clip of the other big jelly species that can be found in our waters – the egg yolk jelly (Phacellophora camtschatica) at up to “only” 60 cm across. 

Mystery Organism – A Jellyfish With a Stalk?!

Blog updated on June 28, 2022.

This is a Marine Detective case for those of you who appreciate mini-mysteries as much as whale wonders.

Gillian Butler and Erin Paul of found this remarkable invertebrate off their kayak base camp in Johnstone Strait, northeastern Vancouver Island in September of 2010. 

I was thrilled to get the “What’s this?” email from them as this is a type of jelly I know is off our coast but that I had never been able to find! It’s a jelly that is only 3 cm wide and is usually attached to kelp or eel grass . . . by its stalk!

Stalked Jelly – photo by Gillian Butler

Yes, it is species of stalked jellyfish (stauromedusae). The species well documented on our coast is the “Oval-Anchored Stalked Jelly” (Haliclystus sanjuanensis). Read below for what is believed to be a new (undescribed) species!

Stalked jellies never become free-swimming, bell-shaped “medusa” like most jellyfish species. Their stalk is sticky allowing them to attach to Eelgrass, seaweed, or rocks in the shallows.  They have 8 “arms” that look like they have pom-poms at their ends.  These clusters of 30-100 tentacles have stinging cells so that the stalked jelly can catch small crustaceans with the pom-poms and bring this food to their mouth (positioned at the centre of the 8 arms).

They are remarkably mobile which you will see in the Lester B. Pearson College video at the end of this blog. If the stalk becomes detached, the animal can hold on with its tentacles till it reattaches its stalk. The student video will also allow you to see the base of the stalk and how the arms can close up.

Only about 50 species of stalked jelly had been discovered worldwide. New extremely deep-dwelling species been discovered around hydrothermal vents AND . . . potentially also in the shallows in front of my community on northeastern Vancouver Island. 

Stalked Jelly found by yours truly on July 1, 2019.

After the above photo went into the world in July 2019, it led to contact with researcher Claudia Mills. She let me know this is an undescribed species (also genus Haliclystus). This is such testament to how little we know about the Ocean. Again, this was in the shallows at only approximately 1 metre depth very near to where I live.

Claudia also thought that the stalked jelly that Gillian and Erin found is likely also the undescribed species. Please note that these are NOT the only known sightings of this “new” species. Their range is believed to include the San Juan Islands (Washington) to southeast Alaska and possibly even northern Japan and sightings go back decades. See Neil McDaniel’s photo form the 1970s below.

I had hoped to find the species again since July 2019. Finally, I had success on June 27, 2022. See photos below. These stalked jellies were again at only about 1 metre depth in the same location as the 2019 “find”.

Limitations in finding the species again were:
(1) That I think it is more likely to be found in the summer months when the visibility while diving is limited due to the richness of plankton in the water column; and
(2) Needing a dive buddy who is willing to gear up in thick neoprene in the summer and do a beach dive when it is usually hotter and much more difficult to see around you in the water. Diving from the beach usually involves more exertion than just rolling off a boat into the ocean. Also the visibility tends to be worse for beach dives because these locations often don’t get as much tidal flushing as do dive sites in narrow passes between islands.
Thank you buddies Natasha Dickinson and Jacqui Engel.

YOU could find this species of Oval-Anchored Stalked Jelly too and carefully document it (not touching it and also being really careful in its habitat e.g. avoid stepping on Eelgrass). Your chances are likely best in summer, on a low tide.

You could upload the sighting to iNaturalist where Claudia Mills would ID. On a recent sighting there she shared: “This is the “other” uncommon, species of Haliclystus that we have found in BC and Alaskan waters. It is usually found in (environmentally) undisturbed quiet bays, on kelp or eelgrass in the shallow subtidal.”

For this Oval-Anchored Stalked Jelly to be “described” and get a species name, experts like Claudia would write up and publish their research on how the species is physically and genetically different.

Note that this is an older video. I think we would be less inclined to touch the animal directly these days.