What if we told you that there are creatures lurking in the water who are hundreds of millions of years old. They don’t have hearts, brains, mouths or… really much of anything. They can be the size of your fingernail or up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) in diameter.
We’re talking about jellyfish.
Jellyfish are extremely weird creatures. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They’re found in every ocean around the world, from warm salty water, to frigid temperatures of Alaska.
Some of them can clone themselves, have been around for 650 million years and will even eat peanut butter. Get it?
Peanut butter and jelly… fish. Made of 95% water, jellyfish are some of the most mysterious creatures in the entire world.
Is it true they’re immortal? What’s in their poisonous sting? And how have they been around for so long?
So, let’s say you’re at your favorite beach relaxing in the water. All of a sudden you feel a small prick on your leg, and that pain continues to get worse.
You’ve just experienced a jellyfish sting. Approximately 200 million people get one every year. This is one of the jellyfish’s defense mechanisms.
Depending on the species of jellyfish, the sting can range from an itchy annoyance or a hospital visit where you may end up fighting for your life.
It all stems from the jellyfish’s tentacles. Within these tentacles they have harpoon-like structures that are full of venom. When touched, their tentacles shoot these structures out, and they penetrate your skin in less than a second.
The pain of the sting comes from porin, a protein found in the tentacles of the jellyfish. This protein’s job is to attack your skin and it does a pretty good job of it.
But please, don’t pee on it. Despite what you’ve heard, this isn’t not a good remedy. Instead, put salt water on the sting, this will deactivate the poison. Don’t forget to scrape off any remaining tentacles that might be on your leg.
Putting something other than salt water on it could reactivate the sting, changing the compounds of the protein, and causing some serious damage.
It’s interesting to note that, the jellyfish don’t intend to do any of this. They only sting so many people because they get beached up on shore – they’re terrible swimmers. Not only that but there’s a ton of them! Groups of jellyfish, known as blooms, often number in the millions.
One jellyfish can lay up to 45,000 eggs in a single day. Sometimes, jellyfish can even clone themselves. If a jellyfish happens to be injured, and parts of their damaged tissue cells start tearing away those can actually grow into full, adult jellyfish, also known as medusas.
For many different creatures, most notably, turtles, jellyfish are lunch. In order not to become extinct from all these hungry turtles, the jellyfish must be able to reproduce faster than they get eaten.
Jellyfish are the oldest multicellular animals on the planet. Scientists have found jellyfish fossils in rocks older than 500 million years. That’s about 250 million years before the dinosaurs.
The lifespan of a jellyfish varies wildly. They can either live for a couple of minutes, or up to year. One jellyfish, called the Turritopsis nutricula, has a very special ability. In times of stress, this jellyfish can reverse the aging process.
An adult can revert back to the polyp stage, and start its life all over again. This phenomena can go on indefinitely. So technically, they’re immortal.
And yes they actually do eat peanut butter. In 2014, researchers at an aquarium in Dallas, Texas fed jellyfish peanut butter and they actually ate it. Apart from the great pun you get from the combination, the peanut butter is also a great source of protein.
One that’s more accessible, and cheaper, for aquariums to feed them than their usual diet of baby brine shrimp.
So although they may have a painful sting, jellyfish are actually wonderful, weird and ultimately, just as peaceful as they look.
- Fun Facts about Jellyfish
- 14 fascinating facts about jellyfish
- What’s Behind That Jellyfish Sting?
- 10 Oldest Species in the World
- Jellyfish: The Next King of the Sea
- Immortal jellyfish: Does it really live forever?
- How do jellyfish reproduce? What effect does their sting have on humans? What’s the difference between red and translucent jellyfish?
- Scientists Feed Peanut Butter to Jellyfish, Make PB and Jellyfish