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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

White Spotted Jellyfish

The White Spotted Jellyfish or Phyllorhiza punctata, is a native of Australia and is also known as the Australian spotted jellyfish. It grows to the size of about 45-50 centimeters in diameter, and is ocassionally known to grow to a maximum length of just a little over 60 centimeters in size. They look extremely beautiful with the design of white spots over their translucent gelatinous body and their frilly oral arms add another aspect of charm to their appearance. Additionally, they are fairly harmless and their sting contains only mild venom which does not cause any serious effect or reaction in humans. Application of vinegar can cure the little burning sensation that may be caused by the sting. In most cases, just washing the location of the sting with salt water is sufficient measure to rid oneself of the minor effects of the white spotted jellyfish sting.

Even though they appear very dainty and harmless, the Australian white spotted jellyfish poses a different kind of threat to the marine ecosystems. White spotted jellyfish are like sponges in that they too filter a lot of sea water in a day in search for food and nutrition. They primarily feed on microscopic plankton which are present in large quantities in marine water. However, the problem arises with the fact that they can filter as much as 13,200 gallons of sea water everyday! Additionally, white spotted jellyfish are often found in large swarms, and the intake of planktons by a large swarm of white spotted jellyfish can be extremely high. This means that their consumption of the plankton is extremely high.

This causes a grave threat to the fragile balance of the marine ecosystem. There are a number of other marine creatures like coral and sea anemones and even the whale that depend on this microscopic plankton for their food. The consumption of plankton by a large swarm of white spotted jellyfish leaves little of no food for a number of these species and they face the threat of death due to non availability of food. This is already becoming a huge problem along the coastline of Australia which is the original habitat of the white spotted jellyfish.

This problem posed by the white spotted jellyfish has become aggravated due to their involuntary migration to the Gulf of Mexico. It is believed that the white spotted jellyfish may have gotten trapped in the ballast tank of a marine vessel and got transported to the Gulf of Mexico. Another opinion offered is that the polyps of the white jellyfish may have attached themselves to the bottom of marine vessels in order to form a hydroid colony and got transported to the Gulf of Mexico where they matured into medusae and finally, adult jellyfish. Whatever be the cause of this transportation, the white spotted jellyfish got introduced to the Gulf of Mexico region where they can now be found in large numbers. The native marine species in the Gulf of Mexico are now beginning to face the problem of non availability of plankton due to the presence of the white spotted jellyfish.

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