Saturday, July 19, 2008

Long Island Sound's Jellyfish

I found information about the jellyfish that people are reporting on Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay this summer in "A Field Guide to North Atlantic Wildlife," by Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch (Yale University Press):

Lion's Mane: Cyanea capillata
"The world's largest jellyfish. Typically to 12 in. ... but can reach 8 ft. ... Most specimens south of Cape Hatteras are small (5 in. ...), but individuals increase in size in North Atlantic. A classic jellyfish, ranging in color from brownish to pink. Extremely long tentacles and massive cascading group of mouth lobes. Range: North Atlantic to Carolinas."

Moon jelly: Aurelia aurita
"Familiar jellyfish of bays, sounds and inland waters. Bell edge rimmed by short fringe of tentacles. Prey captured in mucilaginous cap and 'cleared off' for ingestion by elongate mouth arms that drape below. Easily identified by distinct shamrock appearance of gonads seen through transprent cap. Range: Extreme northern Greenland to Caribbean. Size: To 10 in..."

Ctenophores, or Comb Jellies:

"Often mistaken for jellyfish. However, comb jellies do not sting, have two tentacles or lobes below their sac-like body, and have up to eight comb-like ciliary plates. Gelatinous and fragile, they turn into nondescript blobs out of water. All are plankters (drifters with little self-locomotion) and can amass in large swarms. They are predators of small fish and fish eggs. Note: when viewing comb jellies, look for pinkish worm-like forms in the gut region. These are the parastic young of the Burrowing Anemone..."
(I'll be sure to do that, as soon as I finish looking at the moon jelly's gonads.)

I think the Lion's Mane is the only one that stings and although it can grow to eight feet in size, it doesn't come close to that in our area. Jellyfish (as opposed to comb jellies) can swim, so technically they're not zooplankton, which drift with the currents and tides.

The photos are from here and here, on Flickr.



Anonymous riaknits said...

This is a fascinating post. I used to summer on the North Fork in summers when I was young and the locals referred to the Lion's Mane jellyfish as man-o-wars. (it's nice to know the correct name!) I don't recall ever seeing any other variety - I'm wondering if the Moon Jellys are a more recent introduction or whether they lived farther offshore where I dared not venture. I only recall jellyfish that were completely clear in the adolescent phase, developing reddish interior aspects and tentacles upon maturity. Beautiful creatures.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! I was looking for the specific name for Lion's Mane Jellyfishes and i found it here on this site. It also gave me some good information wich was awesome! I went to Clinton Marina this summer and saw some Lion's Mane jellies. Some were pretty big and others were normal sized. I mostly saw dead jellies laying on the beach, and it was where everyone swam. But it was august so the waters were cold, they weren't really around.My cousin and i did happen to see a huge one floating as we were water sking around the harbor. I'd have to say the stingers were about 12 inches long! It came so close to us we were freaking out! But as we were pulled along it went right passes us! Thank goodness! Thanks for the awesome blog it was tons of help!

6:59 PM  
Blogger David H Peck said...

The Moon Jellys are more common toward the cleaner waters of the Cape, Buzzards Bay, and Narragansett Bay. Those little guys--the Comb Jellys are all over the place as are the Lion's Mane common to any bay areas where the tide can collect them most effectively where people swim and water ski! But all they are is an annoyance for the most part.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Patrick Lynch said...

Tom, Thanks for the mention of our book (A Field Guide to North Atlantic Wildlife). I enjoyed yours as well. A wonderful resource on LIS's history and current conservation issues.
Pat Lynch

10:46 PM  

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