The Blue Button Jellyfish Washing Up on Our Beaches Aren’t Jellyfish at All

Texas is home to some of the creepiest, creepiest, and otherwise weirdest animals on the planet. I would like to introduce it to you. What about tarnation?an irregular series.

Maureen Nolan-Wild was walking along the beach near her home in Galveston last week when she noticed several small blue-green objects. “They were everywhere,” she says. “They were all over the beach,” she said, noting that her eye-catching blobs were blue button jellyfish. It’s a small sea creature that looks like a stained glass sand dollar, with blue-green tentacles attached to a glowing disc. Nolan Wilde, a member of the Galveston Bay Area chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist Program, is not the only beachgoer to notice these blue gems washing up on shore. Many Texans have recently seen the animal on Gulf Coast beaches, and the animal is quickly starting to make a splash online.

Like its closest relative, the sea sail (also known as the sailor of the wind), and its more distant relative, the infamous Portuguese soldier, the blue button jelly, it is a “passive drifter” that relies on ocean currents to get around. In the open sea, these blue guys and their friends can breed by the hundreds. Spending most of their lives at the surface, they “munches on small plankton and crustacean larvae, which serve as a food source for blue sea dragons,” says Jace Tunnell, a research scientist at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port. . Aransas. When the summer sun warms the Gulf of Mexico, plankton blooms can saturate shallow coastal waters. The blue jellies chase the food, and eddies and currents wash them ashore. There, they eventually dry up in the sun, but only after becoming internet celebrities, of course. But while these His No Name lookalikes are cute, they’re not what you might think.

Polpita PolpitaAs it is known by its other name, it is not actually a jellyfish, but a group of even smaller creatures. First discovered and classified by Carl Linnaeus (the father of modern taxonomy) in 1758, these small Texans belong to a class of cnidarians (a family of animals that includes jellyfish) called hydrozoans. Unlike jellyfish, whose tentacles and head are part of a single specimen, blue buttons are hydropolyps. colony. Each of its distinctive blue-green tentacles means it is a single creature. These polyps are classified into three groups. Some focus on reproduction, some on feeding, and some on defense. They are attached to the top of the head and have a mouth and a butt in the center (yes, they eat and excrete from the same place). Tunnel attributes the blue-green, and sometimes blue-green, hue to a simple evolutionary trait. “They rely on ocean currents to move, so blending in with their environment is their best chance of catching prey.”

Blue buttons aren’t really a threat to humans, but jelly explorers be warned. These small buttons can cause quite a sting for people with more sensitive skin. They are also known to make pets (mostly dogs) sick that try to eat them. To best appreciate the beauty of blue peonies, Tunnell and Nolan Wilde suggest observing them from a distance. Who knows what other interesting things you might discover while looking down at the sand? “I always like to say, some people get out of their cars and go into the water,” Nolan-Wild says. “And there’s really a lot between them and the water.” So take some time on your next beach day to observe a little more of the crack lines that mark the coast. Then you might get a glimpse of the blue button.

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