Jellyfish inspire moulds

For the past few weeks jellyfish have appeared in the waters here in plague proportions, and today just below our house I found dozens of different sized jellyfish washed ashore. They were all fantastic in formation, size, colour and shape. There are many varieties of jellyfish in the ocean but in my opinion these ones, if they had vocal chords, would claim to have been the inspiration for early cooks in the creation of edible jelly.

Port Wine flavour?

Some of the jellyfish arrived in the same shade as the ‘Port Wine’ jelly that our parents favoured back in the 50’s.

Trying to avoid being stranded

Since 1995 there has been an unprecedented influx of jellyfish on the coastlines of Tasmania and I doubt from the evidence I have collected in these photos that it has abated.

Here are some important facts about the jellyfish – according to the experts, Dr Lisa Gershwin, QVMAG’s natural science curator and Dr Lisa Gershwin, QVMAG’s natural science curator ‘Cyanea capillata is a large medusoid jellyfish capable of inflicting painful stings to bathers. Its disc complex can be over half a metre in diameter and when alive it ranges in colour from bright pink to purple. Dead or dying specimens observed at or near the tideline are usually a light khaki brown. This sizeable invertebrate is, in many respects, a mysterious animal. Because its habitat is usually oceanic not a lot is known about its normal behaviour or life cycle. It seems likely that the El Nino influence on Pacific Ocean water temperatures is a significant factor in its local appearances.

Perfection of form

This primitive animal is virtually a large mouth, surrounded by many folds of prehensile tentacles suspended from the lower side of its broad disc. Additionally, eight bunches of long, translucent, spaghetti-like stinging tentacles hang, at regular intervals, from the disc’s periphery. There is a rudimentary nervous system which permits response to touch and taste, and also enables the animal to balance and swim. The stinging cells of C. capillata are called cnidoblasts and are unique in the Animal Kingdom. While it is possible to be stung by direct unwitting contact, the usual scenario is for swimmers to emerge from apparently clear water and experience a moderate to severe ‘nettle rash’ shortly afterwards. The reason is that stinging cells, detached from dead and dying jellyfish macerated by the surf, or attached to microscopic larval stages similarly distributed, remain potent for several days. Any exposed part of the body is susceptible, particularly the neck, chest and armpits. Cotton skivvies or rubber wet suits afford some protection. Stings on the face, especially the eyes, can be most unpleasant and often necessitate medical treatment. It is important not to rub the site of irritation which, in most adults, regresses after about an hour. If pain persists, a warm shower followed by swabbing the sting sites with household vinegar is usually quite effective. A degree of acclimatisation to C. capillata stings also occurs.’

I don’t think I will be able to eat jelly made from sugar crystals again without thinking of the battalion that were defeated on the shores today. Roz


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