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All About the Moon Jelly on Oregon Coast: Surreal, Translucent

Published 11/18/2018 at 4:59 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

All About the Moon Jelly on Oregon Coast: Surreal, Translucent

(Oregon Coast) – There have been small reports of them around the Oregon coast, but it was Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium that really documented the find. An interesting species of jellyfish has been stranding along the coastline lately. And it's not that unusual. (All photos courtesy Boothe / Seaside Aquarium).

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As Tiffany put it last week: “Look what the tide has brought in...moon jellies!”

They are known by the name Aurelia aurita, and they are boneless and brainless.

“This species of jellyfish ranges from Alaska to California, and is the proverbial ‘drifter,’ as it floats along wherever the ocean’s current takes it,” Boothe said. “They eat tiny marine life such as plankton and diatoms, which they pick up with the tiny hair-like tentacles that lace the outside edge of the jellyfish. Though they sting their prey, us large, thick-skinned humans cannot be harmed by this jelly.”

Like all invertebrates, they have no heart either. In the water, they are spread out in full form, with a bell on the top of the magnificent and surreal creature. Boothe said this species is unique among jellies because although they have those stinging cells, they can’t even be felt by humans.

Although quite common off the Oregon coast, moon jellies are more common in tropical waters. Yet they have a very wide range of temperature tolerances, from as low as 21 degrees up to nearly 90 degrees.

When moon jellies show up along the Oregon coast, they’re often around four feet in diameter. They can be smaller or larger. You may find dozens at a time or just a few here and there. However, they don’t show up in enormous numbers like those purple sailors (or velella velella as they’re mostly known). Those tinier creatures – vaguely related to a jellyfish – can show up in thousands at a time, causing a nasty stink if they’re left to dry in the sun.

Why do they show up? The ocean off the Oregon coast is simply a very dynamic place and things wash up all the time. Often with jellyfish it’s because the wind pushes them. According to the Seaside Aquarium, there was probably many of them out there when the winds took charge of their destiny.

The Aurelia aurita is one of about ten jellyfish that are very similar, and it’s often hard to tell them apart from each other.

Moon jellies are translucent, and with their limited movement capabilities only drift with the currents. They feed by stinging small plankton and mollusks with prickly little tentacles, then moving the their food into their body for digestion. They also feed on crustaceans, tunicate larvae, protozoans, diatoms, fish eggs and other similarly small organisms.

How they breathe is also a curiosity. Moon jellies do not have breathing organs such as gills or lungs, but instead diffuse oxygen from water through a thin membrane.

It’s not uncommon for either the Seaside Aquarium or the Oregon Coast Aquarium to have them on display. Oregon Coast Lodgings in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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Photo above taken by Haystack Rock Awareness Program. Below, more photos from Boothe and Seaside Aquarium.




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