Atlantic Sea Nettle

What do they look like?

The center of their dome-shaped bells contains four mouth arms with frilled edges ranging in color from pink to yellow.  The mouth arms bring food up to the mouth, which is the only opening to the digestive system—food comes in and after it’s digested, it leaves from the mouth! Their bells are divided into eight sections. Each section contains five defensive tentacles lined with stinging cells designed to ward off predators.  Their mouth arms are nearly double the size of their bells, growing up to 19 ½ inches once the jellies reach adulthood.  Their stinging cells function like dozens of miniature harpoons once they come into contact with another creature. The end result can be a painful sting or death, depending on the organism that has been stung! 

Where do they live and what do they eat?

These planktonic jellies thrive in lukewarm waters along the coasts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as the Western Pacific.  Atlantic sea nettles are carnivorous and are known to prey on marine worms, comb jellies, small crustaceans, fish eggs, and larvae.  Some jellies commute 3,600 feet (1,097 m) up and down in the water daily in search of food.  However, some species of small crustaceans have been found to seek refuge and hitch a ride among the mouth tentacles of sea nettles—some scientists hypothesize that these crustaceans may even be snacking on the jellies!  The Atlantic Sea Nettle often becomes dinner for larger organisms such as the ocean sunfish, the leatherback sea turtle, and sometimes other, larger species of sea jellies!  

How do humans interact with these animals?

Large gatherings of Atlantic sea nettles impact humans by keeping swimmers, beach goers, and tourists from entering the water.  If a human touches the Atlantic sea nettle, thousands of stinging cells on tentacles penetrate toxins into the skin, causing a painful rash.  However, in some cultures, sea jellies are a delicious delicacy!  Some fishermen and fisherwomen routinely catch jellies to be dried and sold to restaurants.