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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sand Jellyfish

Sand Jellyfish (Rhopilema asamushi or Rhopilema esculenta) is a species of jellyfish from the genus Rhopilema. Other species of jellyfish belonging to this group include Rhopilema hispidum and Rhopilema nomadic. They are inhabitants of the Indian Ocean and are found in locations like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, China and some parts of the North Atlantic coastline. This species of jellyfish is very to rare to find in marine waters around the American coastlines.

Sand jellyfish is so called because of their distinct coloration and because the surface of the skin appears to have a granular texture. The bell of the sand jellyfish normally grows between 2- 4.5 cm in diameter. Unlike a number of other jellyfish, the sand jellyfish does not appear to have any distinct pattern of pigmentation. The bell has a definite curvature and the jellyfish appears dome-shaped. There are about 8 oral arms that emerge from the centre of the jellyfish. They are fused and appear like a mass of smoothed fur. They usually protrude out of the middle of the sand jellyfish like an inverted pyramid. This part of the sand jellyfish's body is perhaps its stoutest part and appear thick and leathery. A number of frills and filament may appear to be hanging from these oral arms.

The fascinating aspect of the sand jellyfish is that the edges of its oral arms appear to be inflatable. When they are deflated, they appear like thin threads of white-ish color, but when they are inflated, they resemble puffy spears. Lamentably, little is known about this particular species of jellyfish and the purpose of this facility of inflation is not yet determined. We also do not now very much about their reproductive functions, or their feeding habits. In captivity, they have not responded to freshly hatched baby brine shrimp or thawed mysis shrimp and we do not know how they derive their nutrition. However, research is ongoing and reports from these studies should be available in the near future.

We do know that the jellyfish are capable of stinging because there are records of humans being stung by them. The effects of the sting are known to be mild, usually resulting in an itchy rash and a burning sensation. A more severe effect can occur in a sensitive individual or if one has an allergic reaction to the toxins present in the venom.

Sand jellyfish is enjoyed as food in a number of eastern and south eastern Asian countries like Japan and China. Nutritionally, sand jellyfish are known to contain a fat-free protein and vitamins A and B, and also have been reputed to lower blood pressure. In fact, the demand for sand jellyfish as food is so high that large scale sand jellyfish production operations have begun in earnest. China seems to be eager to capitalize on the economic importance of this export commodity and is doing continual biological research environmental impact of aquaculture activities and culture techniques to enhance the production of sand jellyfish without risking the fragile balance of the marine ecosystem

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