If you are heading out on a Florida bioluminescent kayaking tour, there is a good chance that you might come across an unusual but beautiful creature that lives in our waters. The comb jelly is a stunning, oval-shaped animal that takes its name from the eight rows of tiny, comb-like plates that it uses to propel itself through the water. As it swims, the rows of comb plates diffract the light to produce a shimmering, rainbow effect that keeps our tour guests coming back for more.
Here are some facts about comb jellies that you can amaze the rest of your group with on your next Florida Adventurer Bioluminescence Tour!
The comb jelly is not a jellyfish
Although it may look like one, the comb jelly is not actually a type of jellyfish. Studies have shown that genetically, they are not even related to one another!
It is ancient!
According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the comb jelly is at least 500 million years old!
Comb jellies are cannibals
Comb jellies will eat other comb jellies that are larger than themselves. They do this by biting off chunks of them with special cilia structures in their mouths. However, they first prefer to eat plankton, zooplankton, crustaceans and small fish.
They have very few organs
Comb jellies have been found to have no intestines, lungs or stomach. Instead, oxygen and nutrients are passed directly through gastrodermis or even through the epidermis.
Comb jellies are 95% water
This enables them to float around without any bones or muscle to weigh them down!
Many types of comb jelly are naturally bioluminescent
The protocytes that create the blue and green light they project can be found underneath the rows of cilia that help them to move around. The moving cilia then refract this light, creating a more potent and magical bioluminescent effect.
They find food by detecting chemical changes in the water around them
These chemicals tell that comb jelly that there is something edible nearby. By following the potency of these chemicals until they get stronger, the comb jelly can hunt down its next meal.
Comb jellies are masters at hide and seek
Their transparency means that comb jellies are great at camouflaging, one of their best defenses against potential predators. Some also produce a red pigment which makes it easier for them to hide in darkness.
Comb jellies are gender fluid
Most species of comb jelly have been found to be hermaphroditic. This means that they can act as both males and females, making it easier for them to reproduce. They release both sperm and eggs into the water every single day and rely on nature for them to make a match – either with gametes from another comb jelly or even their own.
If a comb jelly doesn’t eat enough reproduction halts
A constant food supply is essential for comb jellies to release sperm and eggs every day. If they don’t get enough nutrition, they will shrink in size and halt their internal production of gametes until they can eat properly again.
You can’t get stung
Since they look so similar to jellyfish, one of the most common questions that we get asked is whether or not a comb jelly can sting you. Fortunately not! They do not possess stinging cells, so they can be safely caught. On our tours we provide nets so that comb jellies can be placed briefly in a jar and you can examine these majestic creatures up close before releasing them safely back into the water.
Can’t wait to experience comb jellies for yourself? Book yourself on to our next bioluminescent comb jelly eco-tour today and come and see these ancient and wonderous creatures with your own eyes.