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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ball Jellyfish

Jellyfish are found in practically all the oceans of the world and they come in different colors, shapes and sizes. The general body shape is of a bell or an umbrella, with tentacles dangling below its body. The body consists of more than 95% water, and is of a gelatinous mass, and hence the name. There are about 200 species of this fascinating marine animal, and some new species are still being discovered.

The Stomolophus meleagris is one of the species of jellyfish, and is called the cannonball or the cabbage head jellyfish, more commonly. The shape of this jellyfish represents a little more than half of a hemisphere of a globe. Some of them look more like a large egg-shaped mushroom. Their color ranges from shades of milky brown to yellow. These jellyfish are mostly found in waters with an average temperature of 23.1 degrees Centigrade. They have been reported in the western Atlantic, in the waters from New England to Brazil, from southern California to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific and from the Sea of Japan to the South China Sea in the western Pacific.

The cannonball jellyfish mainly preys on the zooplankton, mollusk larvae and red drum larvae. They are harmless, as they do not sting humans. This jellyfish differs from the other species, in the fact that it has a more muscular body, and is a strong horizontal and directional swimmer. It pumps water, with its eight arms and is able to swim quite efficiently in the ocean.

The nutrient content of the cannonball jellyfish is quite high compared to other jellyfish. The cannonball jellyfish is a main source of food for the leatherback turtle and other marine animals. The collagen in its body is very rich in protein, and this makes it an important source of food in places where there is less of protein available in other foods. It is considered a delicacy in Japan, and dieters find this food excellent as it is low in calories. The fat and cholesterol content is very low. The flesh of this jellyfish has been used in Asian medicines, since ancient times, and is known to cure arthritis, bronchitis and high blood pressure.

The cannonball jellyfish is fished extensively, using surface trawlers. The only drawback is that, it gets spoilt very fast, unless you process it. The process to preserve this jellyfish is a simple rubbing of salt, to draw out all the water from its tissues. The processed jellyfish can be exported,as it will stay for weeks without getting spoilt.

The life cycle of the cannonball jellyfish, consists of the eggs, planulae state, polyps and finally the medusa state where it is fully mature, and starts to reproduce again. They reproduce sexually in the medusa state, through fertilising the eggs, and then in the polyps state, they reproduce asexually through budding.

Cannonball jellyfish are dependent on the abundance of zooplankton for their survival. Therefore it is necessary to see that the water quality near the shores is not affected in a way that would decrease the zooplankton. Precautions should be taken against oil spills and harmful algal blooms and non-point source pollution.

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