Often seen pulsating near the surface of the water and traveling with the ocean’s tides, Moon Jellies are a common yet alluring sight on the West Coast, and as such deserve a spotlight in this week’s Wildlife Wednesday.
Many species of jellies have inhabited the Earth’s oceans for more than 650 million years; since before the dinosaurs, in fact. Moon jellies are invertebrates that exist without a heart, brain or bones. In fact, these jellies consist solely of 96% water, 3% protein and 1% minerals! Since they lack the primary organ for thought process, all of their actions are automated responses to sensory stimuli.
Moon jellies differ from other large West Coast jellies in that they lack long, potent stinging tentacles, and as such, have a much more mild sting. Moon jellies capture food on the surface of their bell using mucus to ensnare the prey. The jellies color variance is based on diet; pink or lavender coloured jellies feed primarily on crustaceans, while orange jellies tend to be fans of brine shrimp.
Males and females exist among moon jellies and they reproduce sexually. One of the most distinguishing features among the species is their 4 horseshoe shaped gonads, which are visible through their translucent bells. The females ingest male sperm and fertilization occurs soon thereafter. Small larvae settle on or near the seafloor and grow into polyps, which alternate between feeding and reproductive stages for an average of 5 years. In the reproductive stage, polyps will launch buds of cloned juveniles (known as Ephyrae) into the surrounding water, which then grow into adult Moon Jellies. Adult stage jellies generally live for several months.
Moon Jellies are a common sighting on Spirit of the West tours! This awesome concentration of Jellies was spotted in Roscoe Bay on one of our Desolation Sound trips. They congregate in the warm waters here for breeding season. Our Desolation Sound tours run in the early spring and fall when the area is perfect for kayaking and not too busy with yachts. But be warned, these tours are filling quickly! For those of you interested in adventuring with Spirit of the West: Any bookings for June or July tours qualify for a free night of accommodation on Quadra Island! To learn a little more about Moon jellies before you meet them in person, check out this cool video on their life cycle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id53jmsdxfQ&feature=related.