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Spider crabs riding outside of the cannonball jelly. Photo by Captain Judy Helmey
Spider crabs riding outside of the cannonball jelly. Photo by Captain Judy Helmey

Jellyfish Fascination

I know you are not going to believe this, but as of my upcoming birthday, November 13, 2015, I will have 50 years behind the helm. I started navigating with my father at the age of five and haven’t stopped yet. When I turned 14 years old I started running my own charters, which were selected personally by my father. I was not old enough to get my captain’s license, but back in those days, rules could be bent a bit. I was on the ocean long before the invention of the digital camera. That said, some of my pictures might not be the greatest, but the stories that go along with them are!

Jellyfish have amazed me from a very young age. They are shaped like a flying saucer and, in my opinion, swim just like a saucer might fly. One day, from the helm window of my boat, I took a picture of an Atlantic sea nettle chrysaora quinquecirrha, better known by me as a regular old jellyfish. You can’t imagine how shocked I was when this picture was developed. Many people asked me, “At what depth did you take the picture?” They always seemed disappointed when I tell them the truth.

Since then I’ve learned a lot about these ‘regular jellies’ with a complicated name.

On the tentacles of this jellyfish are nematocysts, or sting cells, which clearly say, “Beware and don’t touch!” One of my pictures shows small shrimp-like creatures seemingly hanging on or doing what is better known as freeloading — at least, this is what I call it! It was then I became aware that jellyfish most always have traveling companions. Not only do they give rides, but they also offer shade sometimes referred to as protection to other small fish. I have seen on many occasions a single jellyfish with numerous small marine creatures swimming under and around.  I sure have seen some interesting freeloaders in my days.

My next most interesting jelly is called Stomolophus meleagris or to the common man, cannonball. This is one cool jellyfish, because it doesn’t sting you. However, the mucus that covers its outside can numb skin just like novocain once it makes contact. Its freeloader is a spider crab. You can find the crab resting under the jelly’s maroon skirt or sometimes they ride on the outside. I have yet to figure out what makes the crab decide to ride outside of the jellyfish. Every time I see a crab riding on the outside of the jelly I always grab my camera hoping to get a better picture than I did last time.

Thanks for reading!  

Captain Judy aka jelly fish watcher!


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