What the sea dragged in

“Dangerous surf” warnings usually signal a good time to beach-comb. You never know what is going to turn up. This time, it was jellyfish in the wrong place at the wrong time, and unable to avoid being smashed up or washing onto the beach.

The bell on this jelly blubber (Catostylus mosaicus) was about 30 cm across.

Catostylus mosaicus

The bell is blue because of a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae (single-celled plants), which photosynthesise in the “flesh” of the jelly and supply it with nutrients. Apparently, in cooler waters than ours the bell is white – presumably they don’t have zooxanthellae. They are common in the Indo-Pacific oceans, and in coastal lagoons.

There is no central mouth, but the tentacles have small openings through which food is passed to the stomach.

Catostylus mosaicus, underside

Apparently this species is commercially harvested for food in Asia. I once had jellyfish soup – perhaps from this species – while living in Hong Kong, but I can take it or leave it. The flavour, as with most seafood, comes from the herbs and spices added in the cooking. One website I checked said jellyfish are a good source of protein, iron and selenium. There’s apparently a Chinese belief that they reduce high blood pressure (perhaps because the symbolism of their relaxed going-with-the-flow beneath the waves). The downside is that they are processed using salt, so very high in sodium. But, who knows, perhaps eating them would be a way to reduce the ‘jellification’ of seas that are happening in some areas, where there’s not much left but wall-to-wall jellyfish.

This jimble (Carybdea rastoni) was another victim of the waves. This is an Australian cubomedusa – instead of having a round bell, it has a cube with a tentacle at each bottom corner. Each side of the cube was about 3 cm.

Carybdea rastoni

I used to be terrified of these when swimming as a kid in Spencer Gulf in South Australia. You see straight through them unless the water is very calm, and the first thing you feel is that very nasty sting. Luckily the pain only lasts for an hour or two, and the red welt on the skin goes away after a couple of days.

Jellies weren’t the only victims. There’s not much left of this poor bird … keel bone and one wing.

Dangerous surf, indeed.

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