Ocean Currents

10 Thriving Sea Jellies

As we continue to see the impacts of climate change, expect to see more jellyfish

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Millions of jellyfish, Mastigias papua etpisonii, fill a unique marine lake in Palau. There are five marine lakes, that each have their own endemic jellyfish, scattered throughout Palau. Jellyfish Lake, Palau, Micronesia, Pacific Ocean. © Ethan Daniels

One of our main concerns at Ocean Conservancy is climate change and its impacts on our communities, resources and wildlife. Bleaching corals are among the first signs of climate change impacts we have seen have seen in our ocean. And though climate change has been a stressor on most ocean wildlife, there’s a particular group that has high adaptability and predicted success for the future, particularly in the face of climate change—sea jellies.

The future of our ocean depends on climate action. Urge your representative to support legislation to protect our ocean from the effects of climate change.

Sea jellies (or jellyfish) are a charismatic subphylum that is familiar to all. Fossil evidence dates sea jellies as far back as 500 million years ago—if not longer. They are soft-bodied creatures consisting of at least 95% water, possessing a simple structure and a noticeable lack of almost everything that distinguishes plant from animal—including blood, a heart and a brain.

Warming temperatures, increased salinity and increased acidity are causing the demise of many ocean creatures, but due to their lack of complex features, these are not a problem for sea jellies. In fact, warm temperatures and dead zones (areas of water with depleted oxygen) are places where sea jellies thrive; and because their natural predators, like sea turtles, fish and sharks, struggle in these changing environments, their numbers will only continue to grow. As the sea jelly population rises, here are a 10 photos of our favorite thriving jellies:

A pink and brown colored sea jelly in dark green water.
Jellyfish (Tiburonia granrojo) — a new species described by MBARI and JAMSTEC researchers. This species grows up to 1 meter in diameter. © NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Up close photograph of an orange sea jelly.
© Jim Patterson
A bright red and orange sea jelly in green-blue waters.
A red jellyfish in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. © Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR

A small yellow and brown striped sea jelly in dark waters
A yellowish jellyfish with brownish red stripes. © NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas, Leg 1
A purple striped sea jelly in cloudy, green-blue waters.
A purple striped jellyfish, Pelagia panopyra, possesses very potent stingers. Taken in California near Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. © Kip Evans
Jellyfish off West Palm Beach, Florida. © Jane Saull
A glowing, purple sea jelly on a black background.
A Compass jellyfish in False Bay, Cape Peninsula, South Africa. © Peet J. van Eeden
A small bloom of orange sea jellies floating along the surface of clear, shallow water with a large patch of seaweed.
A group of Jelly Fish at the Breakwater Jetty, just off the Coast Guard pier in Monterey, CA. © Derek Dean
A sea jelly with long, stringy tentacles in a cloudy, blue sea.
© Lindsey Dougherty

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