If you’re heading out for a kayaking tour in Cocoa Beach, you will most likely see bioluminescent comb jellies. They are the magical part about kayaking in Florida. Most people don’t know much about this creature and have probably never heard about it before either.
Comb jellies are stunning oval-shaped creatures. They get their name from the rows of comb-like plates that they use to propel themselves in the water. These plates reflect and diffract light to give a shimmering effect.
Here are some fun facts about comb jellies:
Comb jelly aren’t jellyfish
comb jelly has a similar jelly-like structure that we associate with jellyfish, however, they are not the same. Comb jelly is in no was related to jellyfish. They are very different genetically too.
Comb jellies are ancient
Comb jellies are one of those ancient species of creatures that have been around for over 500 million years. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History claims they are at least 500 million years old.
Comb jellies are cannibals
Comb jellies are considered cannibals since they are capable of eating other comb jellies. They eat comb jellies that are larger than themselves. They can bite off chunks of the other comb jelly with their cilia structures in their mouths. They do, however, prefer to eat plankton, crustaceans, small fish, and zooplankton.
They have few organs
Comb jellies also have very few organs. They don’t have any intestines, stomach, or even lungs. Nutrients and oxygen pass through their epidermis and gastrodermis instead.
They are 95% water
Comb jellies are essentially made of water. Their bodies comprise of 95% water, making it easier for them to float around. They don’t have any bones and muscles that weigh them down.
Comb jelly are naturally bioluminescent
Many types of comb jellies are naturally bioluminescent. The protocytes that create this radiating light are found under the cilia that allow them to move around. The moving cilia refract this light, creating that amazing bioluminescent effect guests love to witness.
They don’t sting
Since comb jellies look similar to jellyfish, it’s common for people to assume they sting. When out on bioluminescent kayaking tours we’re always asked if comb jellies can sting. Fortunately, they do not sting. Comb jellies done have the stinging cells and so they can be safely caught. While on a tour we provide nets so that comb jellies can be placed in jars for a short period of time to examine. They are then safely put back into the water.