I got to thinking about jellyfish the other day, as one does. I like to think I’m broad-minded about a lot of things but I do like some boniness to my critters, even if it’s crusty stuff on the outside. Gelatin as a lifestyle is completely beyond the pale. There should be limits. My personal limits are at the shoreline. There’s some weird stuff out there.
Now, I do admire a good octopus. But your octopus has intention. Your octopus has skin and crazy muscle and the muscle goes every which way so it can stretch and compress and twist, and your octopus can personally self-dwindle into a little hole when it wants to. We can’t do that because of all the bones. (Cats can do it to some extent because their bones are secondary to their primary pudding.)
It’s hard to say what jellyfish have. They’re mostly jellyfish-shaped holes in the ocean. They can range from the size (and consistency) of a booger to the largest around 440 pounds, although most of that is water weight. They have three layers to them, with fancy names, but the upshot is they’re the outer layer, the inner layer, and the jelly in the middle. They don’t have bones or blood or much of an intellect, but they’ve been bombing around for a half a billion years. Which means at least they eat and reproduce.
The reproduction bit starts out sounding promising. Underneath the bell is a dangly bit hanging down from the center, and sometimes it has “oral arms.” So far, so good. Things go south in a hurry. The mouth is at the end of the dangly thing. And it also functions as the anus. Sign me up!
So jellyfish sex wouldn’t look like much to us—not as evidently erotic as slugs or anything. Mostly the male and female jellyfish get in the same vicinity and release sperm and eggs into the water which, if not intimate by our standards, is at least similar to amphibians and fish and such, and we must assume there is some inspiration involved. But sometimes the sperm swim into the female’s mouth and fertilize the eggs inside her body, which to my mind adds a sinister twist to an activity that already takes a little getting used to at first.
And then some kinds of jellyfish stash their eggs in pits on their oral arms. That’s right: jellyfish have oral armpits. Now you know.
So, this is what I kept thinking about jellyfish. Specifically, how do we know they’ve been around for a half billion years? What is there to fossilize? Turns out a jellyfish fossil is just a place where a jellyfish has been. A jelly stranded on mud, covered with mud, in the right conditions, can leave an impression somehow recognizable to experts. It would look like a rock that had a jellyfish thought balloon. (This is a good time to remind everyone that people who can read the minds of sedimentary rocks are far more interesting and trustworthy than most people in the public sphere.)
Five hundred million years and still plugging along. It didn’t take nearly that long to concoct another creature so clever it figured out how to do itself in, figured out it was doing itself in, figured out exactly how it was doing itself in and what to do about it, and then—here’s where the cleverness drained out—did itself in anyway. Might as well have had jelly for brains.
If a creature has a combination mouth and anus with an adjacent armpit, it’s pretty much a given that the female will opt to fertilize eggs from a distance: “No, no… that’s okay, I’m not really into romance. How about YOU stay over there, and I’ll stay over here, and on a count of three, I’ll release my eggs and you release your sperm? Does that sound good to you?”
Well, I would think she’d be more of a potty mouth than that.
OMG!! I have a potty mouth! Big time! Might I be a jellyfish?
Approximately 340 years from now, Captain Jean Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701D will encounter giant jellyfish in space on their FIRST mission. They will be sentient creatures and telepathic! 👽
Okay… I’m taking you seriously here. WAS that the first mission? I watched the entire series all googly-eyed (mostly because I had such a crush on Data. Met him at a Star Trek convention one year. Yeah… am nerd.) But I seldom remember individual episodes.
Brent Spiner, what’s not to love! Yes Mimi, it was the pilot episode!! They ‘masqueraded’ as giant structures on a planet and when found out, pulled themselves up by their jelly-bootstraps and went up into orbit, looking like the giant glowing star-jellyfish they were. :^)
[i’ve never seen star trek ‘k bye]
Aw, man! That was my favorite version of the Star Trek universe! I remember watching the early versions as a child, and acting them out with my little friends. But ST/NG was SO much better! I used to go to conventions in Philly as ensign Ro, a Romulan … and then there was Doctor Who! And Farscape! I loved to dress up as a child on Halloween, but I loved it even more as an adult.
Wow Mimi, that is unreal! As is Murr’s snooty retort about having never watched Star Trek–well I’ve never read the New Yorker so we’re even ;^)
Not meant to be snooty at all! It’s just a fact. Haven’t seen Star Wars either. I’ve had a lot of gaps.
I’m sorry Murr, I was just kidding–my sister’s only seen one Star Trek movie (The Voyage Home, in 1986) and only because I agreed to go see ‘Dirty Dancing’ in return :^)
I guess “self-dwindle” is a real verb, because its conjugations can be found here.
So far, I like the “Present continuous” tense the best:
I am dwindling myself.
You are dwindling yourself.
There are those who dwindle together, after which, they are both dwindled, or will have been dwindled.
Good Lord. I can’t make ANYTHING up.
AND you can’t trust anything an atom tells you, because they make up EVERYTHING!
a MOST excellent retort
A good 5% of everything anyway, what with dark matter and dark energy. But that’s not as funny.
I got to this part, “outer layer, the inner layer, and the jelly in the middle”, and I went all Homer Simpson and wanted a donut.
Why so cruel to these noble creatures – some can hurt or kill us…an apex predator! And…those commercials for brain support supplements…featuring jellyfish extract, goop, slime, whatever that benefits our kind. If anything, jellyfish have memories that rival…give me a moment, I will remember what I was about to say.
They could easily rival mine.
A lot of the time I think I DO have jelly for brains. Then one day the newspaper has an easier crossword and I feel better about myself for a while. Then it’s back to the jelly brain.
Stick to Mondays.
The “jellies” exhibit at the New England Aquarium in Boston is my very favorite. Mesmerizing and graceful critters.
It was either there or the Monterey Aquarium I saw a jellyfish exhibit. Spectacular!
Monterey Bay Aquarium has a jellyfish cam: https://youtu.be/pT9_HJr-nso
I once saw – in the water off a dock on Norfolk Navel Base, beside a submarine tender – a jelly fish about 3-4 feet across. never want to see that while I’m in the water!
Only thing I want to see when I’m in the water is a life preserver.