The facts about Jellyfish

Few marine creatures are as mysterious and intimidating as jellyfish. Though easily recognized, these animals are often misunderstood. Some bathers and beachcombers react with fear upon encountering these invertebrates but, in fact, most jellyfish in South Carolina waters are harmless. This article was prepared to help coastal residents and vacationers learn the difference between the jelly fish to avoid and the ones you can safely ignore

Jellyfish are members of the phylum Cnidaria, a structurally simple marine group of both fixed and mobile animals: sea anemones, sea whips, corals and hydroids are polyps that grow attached to rocks or other hard surfaces; jellyfish and colonial siphonophores like the Portuguese man-of-war are mobile (either actively swimming or subject to winds and currents). Inherent to both types of life histories is their radial symmetry (body parts radiating from a central axis). This symmetry allows jellyfish to detect and respond to food or danger from any direction.

Jellyfish come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Most are semi-transparent or glassy and bell-shaped, measuring less than an inch to over a foot across the bell, although some may reach 7 feet in diameter. The tentacles of some jellyfish can reach lengths greater than 100 feet. Regardless of their size or shape, most jellyfish are very fragile, often containing less than 5% solid organic matter.

Jellyfish inhabit every major oceanic area of the world and are capable of withstanding a wide range of temperatures and salinities. Most live in shallow coastal waters, but a few inhabit depths of 12,000 feet! Chad Widmer…Marine Biologist

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