Friday, June 11, 2010

Night of the Moon Jellies

Night of the Moonjellies
by Mark Shasha

This beautifully illustrated picture book for ages 4-8 follows 7 year old Mark who discovers on the beach small jellylike objects that he places in a bag of seawater.

A moonlight ocean boat ride with his grandmother finds thousands of moonjellies shimmering in the water. (He wisely releases his own discovery among them.)

It's a nice book to bring to the beach this weekend with the kids. Unfortunately, it doesn't really explain what moon jellies are all about.

jellyfish live in water

New Jersey beachgoers of all ages have seen them.Unfortunately. they usually see them dead on the beach.

Their common name is Moon Jelly and their scientific name is Aurelia aurita.

The tentacles of a moon jelly are attached under the "umbrella shaped body." Moon Jelly are harmless to humans.

This is one of the most common jellyfishes found on the beach in New Jersey. Most of the time, they are found washed up on shore where they look like a round disk-shaped pad of fairly firm, clear jelly.

Most moon jellies you find will be about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. The disk that washes up on shore is only the remaining part of the creature. Yes, it's harmless to pick up.

When the creature was alive, it was a a carnivore that ate mostly plankton. They use stinging nematocysts to subdue the food they catch and also have a mucus layer that they pull food into. This sticky goo serves to trap their prey.

They stay close to the water surface for feeding, and that makes them food for by some large fish, turtles and even some birds.

Their locomotion is not that efficient, so currents often wash them ashore.

This video below shows a different species than the one that lives in NJ waters, but the behavior and appearance is very similar to our local moon jellyfish.

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