Combing Jellies

I was taken by the reef squid. While swimming, I spotted a shoal of them hanging at the back of Quest. The squid were spaced out among the jellies. I stopped in my tracks. Exhaled through my snorkel and blinked into my mask.

I’m used to seeing the jellies – but not the squid so much. I watched them wave their arms around their heads. Peachy pink and nervy. Their big eyes kept an equal glance at me. If I approached, swimming down towards them, they propelled themselves away just as quickly. The size of my feet if not smaller, these Caribbean reef squid were a fantastic find.

Meanwhile, we’ve had a load of gelatinous jellyfish turn up in the last few weeks – as the weather and the sea have simultaneously calmed. Without being blown away by the voracious Atlantic trades, the creatures can get closer. They must be on filter-feeding express mode.

It’s always incredible to me the difference between sea and sky. How almost everything water-borne (and raised) on this planet filters for their food. Molluscs and crabs and corals and sponges. By comparison, can you imagine if we did the same thing in our airy world? Stuck our tongues out and waited for food to come past? Our tongues would hit the floor and our arms would be full of feathery appendages to catch what was on the breeze. We really are divided into two worlds.

The jellies stay in the top of the water column, in the first few metres. When you get much lower than that, they disappear. Too cold and too much pressure. They take off back to the surface.

I think the ones around Quest and all the other boats might actually be ctenophores rather than classic jellyfish. I remembered they’re known as comb jellies. We last saw them in the drastically more temperate, but no less beautiful Scilly Isles when the girls were much younger. We gathered them in buckets and studied their lights. Comb jellies are known for lighting up.

This was one clue. Swimming with them now at close range, a line appears at the top of their bodies, producing waves of electric-style light.

The jellies have four dark spots on their bodies too. I remembered that comb jellies – unlike ‘normal’ jellyfish, don’t sting.

These comb jellies under Quest are stout and solid. They have the shape of the Dark Side’s fighter planes in the Star Wars movies. When you touch them, they ‘swim’. They contract their and pulse out of the way. They’re awesome. And they’re sticky.

Hold on. I finally looked it up. Spot-winged comb jellies. Fave food of some sea turtles. Boom! Who said lockdown was boring? Please don’t answer that.

Photos courtesy of Shona James, fellow Port St Charles 5* prisoner. Thank you 😊

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