7 types of jellyfish you may not know existed
These incredible Mediterranean species are as beautiful as they are fascinating.
Beneath the epic seascape of the Mediterranean Sea swims a bright and diverse world of marine life. One group of critters stands out in particular: the jellyfish. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors, floating in their otherworldly way beneath the water's surface.
Jellyfish numbers have increased in the Mediterranean Sea over the past few decades. They feed on plankton, fish eggs and even small fish, and they're a food source themselves for large fish and sea turtles. But not all jellyfish are beneficial – when blooms become too large, it can hurt the tourist industry because beachgoers fear being stung.
Not everyone is deterred by their uptick in numbers – Israeli researchers decided to address the issue head-on, coming up with an environmentally friendly and innovative product using jellyfish: biodegradable diapers that can break down in just 30 days.
While not all jellyfish sting, we would venture to say that the best way to observe jellies is from afar. Dive in and take a closer look at these incredible jellyfish found in Mediterranean waters:
Fried egg jellyfish
Cotylorhiza tuberculata, also known as the Mediterranean jelly and by its fitting nickname of fried egg jellyfish, is among the most common jellyfish found in the Mediterranean Sea. While this species of jelly can sting, it's not particularly harmful to humans. It's a medium-sized critter, with an umbrella (the top structure) that ranges from 6 to 11 inches in width.
Rhizostoma pulmo goes by many names: barrel jellyfish, dustbin-lid jellyfish, and frilly-mouthed jellyfish to name a few. It's known not just by the blue ring lining the umbrella, but the sheer size: up to 2 feet wide! The barrel jelly is so large, in fact, that young fish and small crabs seek shelter in its mildly stinging tentacles.
Chrysaora hyoscella is a less commonly seen resident of the Mediterranean Sea. So named because of the striking striped pattern that adorns its umbrella, the compass jellyfish floats along the current in a mesmerizing way. Be warned, though, the compass jelly has a stinger, and it knows how to use it – but it's not as painful as other species of jellyfish.
Pelagia noctiluca is one of the most recognizable jellies in the Mediterranean – and that's a good thing, because it wields the most frequent and painful stings in the region. According to the marine research site Perseus, the majority of jellyfish stings that occur in the Western Mediterranean can be attributed to this jelly, earning it the nickname "mauve stinger." They are most abundant in the warm Mediterranean waters of summertime.
The inverted nature of Cassiopea andromeda lets it remain seated along the sandy bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, contributing to its surprisingly anemone-like appearance. The upside-down jelly is remarkable because it has a symbiotic relationship with algae and shrimp. Shrimp live safely within the jelly's tentacles, keeping it free of parasites; the algae lives within the jellyfish, providing sustenance for the jelly and also giving the jellyfish its brownish color.
Mnemiopsis leidyi is a sting-less comb jelly, also known by its less flattering nickname of "warty comb jelly." If you look closely at the photo above, you can see colors pulsing through its combs. With bodies made up of 97 percent water, sea walnuts are barely visible. Small and unnoticeable as they may be, sea walnuts have become an invasive species in the Mediterranean region, with potentially dire effects on the ecosystem as they harm fish eggs and larvae.
Cephea cephea, also known as the cauliflower jellyfish or crowned jellyfish, is a resident of the Red Sea. It can grow up to 2 feet in diameter and is known for its full skirt of squishy appendages.
Though they may be a nuisance to many and a threat to some, these species show their value as some of Earth's most fascinating creatures.
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