With the ocean covering about three-quarters of the earth’s surface and rising, it’s no surprise that it is a hotbed for some particularly peculiar creatures – some of which scientists are only just finally starting to understand, if not discover. However, there’s one creature that is more familiar to most of us and comes in a variety of different colors, shapes, and sizes – the often dreaded, jellyfish.
Dubbed the ‘Aliens of the Ocean’, jellyfish have long been the unwanted visitor of summer vacations, feared for their wicked sting. However, you might look at them differently when you find out that these ocean drifters are actually full of fascinating facts!
Fact #1: They have been around since before dinosaurs
In 2007, scientists discovered a very rare preserved jellyfish fossil which is thought to be over 505 million years old. Given that dinosaurs lived from about 245 million to 66 million years ago, this means that jellyfish pre-date them by at least 250 million years – making them one of the oldest living species on earth, surviving five mass extinctions!
Fact #2: Jellyfish don’t have organs
Made up of over 95% water, jellies don’t have bones, intestines, stomachs or brains! Instead, their gelatinous bag-like body and dangling tentacles are comprised of two simple cell layers – the external epidermis and the internal gastrodermis, which help it to digest food and absorb oxygen and nutrients through its cell walls.
Fact #3: Some species of jellyfish have unlocked the power of immortality
When a jellyfish is injured, the damaged tissue cells have the ability to regenerate as fully-grown jellyfish – something which was discovered by Australian marine biologists when they left an injured Cassiopea jellyfish alone in its tank and returned to find it in the company of 200 youngsters, each an exact copy of the original! And if that wasn’t enough to convince you that jellyfish are more zombie than marine animals, then just look to the Turritopsis dohrnii – more commonly known as the Benjamin Button jellyfish. This tiny species of jelly no bigger than your fingernail has the unique ability to age backward when stressed or under attack – dropping to the seafloor and collapsing in on itself to become a jelly blob, which then goes on to grow back into a polyp. Move over La Prairie!
Fact #4: Jellyfish have been to space
In a unique experiment by NASA in 1991, around 2,500 jellyfish polyps were sent into space in flasks and bags containing artificial seawater, to learn more about how living organisms function and survive in the microgravity environment of Earth’s orbit. While in space, the jellies rapidly multiplied and by the end of the mission, it is reported that there were over 60,000 jellyfish in the Earth’s orbit!
Fact #5: Not all jellyfish sting
While very rare, stingless jellyfish do exist and can be found in just a few places in the entire world, including the remote Lenmakana Lake in the East Indonesian Archipelago. Here, a species of jellyfish has evolved in isolation and subsequently lost their ability to sting, meaning you can swim alongside thousands of them at any one time without fear – something which our guests onboard Aqua Blu experienced while on the inaugural voyage across Raja Ampat!