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THE JELLYFISH

By: Efraim Harari

Jellyfish, also known as jellies and sea jellies, are free-floating sea creatures that have soft, gelatinous bodies and long, stinging tentacles. The body of a jellyfish is most unusual, as it does not consist of an outer shell or any bones or cartilage. Over 95% of the jellyfish’s body is made up of water.

Most jellyfish are transparent and bell-shaped. The top part of the jellyfish’s body is referred to as its “bell.” On the underside of the jellyfish’s bell-shaped body is an opening that is its mouth. There are over 2,000 different types of jellyfish, and they all vary greatly in their sizes and colors. Some jellyfish are colorless; some are bioluminescent; and some come in gorgeous colors such as pink, blue, yellow, red, and purple. The size of a jellyfish ranges from less than one inch to nearly seven feet long, with tentacles up to 100 feet long or more.

Despite their name, jellyfish are not actually fish; they are plankton. Plankton are organisms that live in the water but have limited swimming powers and are incapable of swimming against the ocean currents. Jellyfish inhabit oceans worldwide and are particularly prominent in coastal areas.

The jellyfish is carnivorous, and despite its blob-like appearance, it is a remarkably efficient predator. It has many tentacles that vary in length, depending on the species. These tentacles are covered in a skin that contains special cells, some that sting, some that grip, and some that stick. The tentacles that hang around the bell of the jellyfish hold the stinging cells. The tentacles that hang around its mouth are called oral arms; these are used to pass food into the jellyfish’s mouth.

The main use of the jellyfish’s tentacles is to capture prey and defend the jellyfish. Jellyfish stun their prey with their tentacles before grabbing onto their victims and bringing them into their mouths. Some jellyfish stings contain poison, which the jellyfish use to paralyze and kill their prey with before eating them. Jellyfish prey on small fish, crabs, tiny plants, and anything else that gets stuck in their tentacles.

The jellyfish’s main defense against predators is its transparent body and its sting. Although the jellyfish’s sting is a good deterrent against most creatures, some animals that prey on jellyfish aren’t affected by the stings. They include sea slugs, ocean sunfish, and sea turtles.

Most jellyfish live less than one year.

Look, Mom - No Hands

(or Ears, Nose, or Feet)!

Most jellyfish don’t have eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, hands, or feet. The jellyfish depends on simple sense cells, which are located in ridges along the edge of its bell. These sense cells perform different jobs. Some act as eyes and respond to the sunlight shining on the water’s surface. The jellyfish must be able to sense light in order to determine up from down. Other sense cells of the jellyfish act as a nose, sensing chemicals in the water. Still other sense cells enable the jellyfish to keep its balance and guide itself in the water.

Largest Jellyfish

The lion’s mane jellyfish is the world’s largest jellyfish. Its bells are over seven feet in diameter, and its tentacles are over 100 feet long. This jellyfish is named for its shaggy oral arms and thin, hair-like tentacles that resemble a lion’s mane. The lion’s mane jellyfish has eight groups of tentacles, with up to 150 tentacles per group. The bell of its body is pointed, like a star. Lion’s mane jellyfish are found in a variety of colors, including red, purple, orange, and tan.

The lion’s mane jellyfish eats other plankton, small fish, crustaceans, and even other jellyfish. When hunting for prey, it will lower itself down in the water and spread its long tentacles out like a huge fishing net over its prey.

The lion’s mane jellyfish is commonly known to divers for its painful sting. Though the sting is painful, it is not deadly for humans; however, it is toxic and can cause critical burns. The lion’s mane jellyfish can be found in the cold waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The largest lion’s mane jellyfish are found in the Arctic Ocean.

Deadliest Jellyfish

The venom of the box jellyfish is considered to be among the deadliest venoms in the world, containing toxins that attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. It is so deadly that people have been known to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure within three minutes of getting stung.

Box jellies, named for their four-sided square shape, are unique among jellyfish in several ways. While most jellyfish do not have any eyes, they have twenty-four eyes! They are from the few animals in the world that have a 360-degree view of their surroundings. Box jellyfish are also able to swim, not just drift like other jellyfish.

Box jellies, also known as marine stingers and sea wasps, are pale blue in color and transparent. Their tentacles can reach up to ten feet in length, and each tentacle has about 5,000 stinging cells. They live primarily in the coastal waters off Northern Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Torah Talk

Jellyfish are known for their stings. It’s an automatic reflex. When a person, fish, or any sea creature comes in contact with it, the jellyfish releases its toxin.

Here’s something to think about: why doesn’t a jellyfish sting itself? When its long tentacles touch a part of its own body, why doesn’t it release any toxin? The answer is that the jellyfish senses a sugar-protein mixture on its body and “recognizes” that it’s part of itself - and so it doesn’t sting. But without this sugar-protein on itself - without this “sweetness” - the jellyfish would certainly hurt its own body.

In fact, there’s a cream on the market that helps protect people from jellyfish stings. The cream contains a mixture of sugar and protein that is similar to the substance found in the jellyfish bell. When the jellyfish comes into contact with this creamy substance, it “thinks” that it is touching itself instead of a person, and so it refrains from stinging.

What a tremendous lesson for us!

We humans can also release a toxic sting, with our tongues; it’s called lashon hara. Our tongues can be more lethal than the tentacles of the jellyfish. Even a little sting - one negative word - really hurts, and it can have a long-lasting effect.

One reason why it is so easy to talk negatively about others is because we tend to focus on people’s shortcomings. However, when it comes to ourselves, we only see and feel “sweetness,” like the jellyfish, which is why we would never want anything negative spoken about us.

But unlike the jellyfish, we were not created with an automatic stinging reflex, and so we can actually do something about this problem. Let’s work on finding the sweetness in every person, the same way we always try finding the sweetness in ourselves! When we do that, it will become so much easier to stop speaking lashon hara about others

Did you Know?

Even a dead jellyfish can sting!