Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jellyfish Mystery Solved

Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Sharyl Crossley is a saltwater Sherlock Holmes. If there's an unusual creature that needs to be identified, especially if it's a jellyfish, Sharyl can usually name the animal and provide some great insight into where the animal lives, what it eats and other fascinating facts. So when this e-mail came in about a mysterious jellyfish, Sharyl was the one with the answer. She says the jelly-like critter is really a nudibranch. Read on:

Hello Folks,

Here be a strange Jelly we stopped for a few minutes. Hoping for identification, or a lead to someone who might be able to, I am sending it to you.

This little guy is about 7" in length, tubular with flattened oar-like appendages. It stopped undulating after a few minutes in a green bucket of chuck, which caused great affection enough to let it loose, but resumed before I let it go. Which left me later wishing I'd penned it for a bit until able to arrange for better photos. Alas, it is off into The Wild and good luck.

Here are a few poorly focused photos:

Flash photo shows natural coloration

The following photos taken with natural late-day lighting are enhanced to reveal inner variegations

Your comment will be much appreciated.


Tom Clarke - Captain
50 36 N
125 37 W
Alder Island - The Broughton Archipelago Marine Preserve
Gateway to The Great Bear Rain Forest
British Columbia, Canada

Sharyl's answer:

It appears to be a hooded nudibranch, such as Melibe leonina, family Tethyidae.
They typically attach to kelp or eel grass and catch plankton with their disk shaped “mouth”. They can be found “free swimming” in surface waters after storms etc. They range from Alaska to Gulf of CA, and can grow to 10-15cm in length.

In these pics you can’t really make out the head/tentacles too well, but it’s probably tucked in due to stress. The paired leaf-like appendages and the venations throughout the body are what lead me to believe this is a Melibe.

See awesome studio glass art and mysterious-looking jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium.

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