Jellyfish, veils of grace

underwater photos of jellyfish

By Floor Anthoni (2006)
The transparent jellyfish of our oceans are a photographer's delight, like the translucent dress of a bride in summer. But capturing these veils of grace in their most wondrous appearance is not easy, as it depends on circumstance. For best results one needs a sunny day with a blue sky, and tranquil clear water. Such moments are not of our choosing, as jellyfish prefer more turbid waters which are richer in food. Jellyfish are also easily damaged by entanglement with plants and rocks, and they are a chosen target for many kinds of fish who eat their gonads out.
Jellyfish are found in all oceans as they are free to roam between these. But even though there are few species in the world's oceans, they are difficult to identify. Some jellyfish are but the flowering stage of a sessile organism like a hydroid but fortunately, most of these are rather small. For the larger jellyfish, their flowering or reproductive phase is very small, like a hydroid, and often attached to the undersides of overhanging rock walls.
Jellyfish belong to the flower animals that have stinging cells. For a diver they can become a mine field, as these stinging cells are located on long fishing lines that can extend over several metres. Photographing a stinging variety often ends up in being stung, the price of a daring shot.
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Keywords: NZ, New Zealand, underwater, sea, ocean, environment, jelly, jellyfish, cnidaria, sting, gooseberry, salp, 

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Moon jellies, Aurelia
Moon jelly Aurelia aurita
f012430: the moon jelly or earlobe jelly is one of the most common and widely spread jellyfish. It does not sting as it does not 'fish' for food with long stingy lines. Instead its short tentacles act like brooms, brushing food onto its many mouths in its skirts. Aurelia sp.
Moon jelly in plankton rich water
f012434: jellyfish seek out the shallows below the wave-torn zone, where zoo plankton abounds. But this creates problems for the photographer. The earlobes contain the animal's eggs, a target for fish. Aurelia sp.

Beautiful light on Aequorea
f026811: from the centre of an Aequorea jellyfish hangs a flower-like mouth on a stalk. This jellyfish does not have trailing lines but mops food particles onto its mouth, with each contraction of the bell.
f026809: beautiful sun rays and rippled water. Jellyfish somehow know how deep they are, perhaps due to the wave movement. In the case of ruffled water,t hey stay deeper down. Aequorea sp.
f026810: unidentified jellyfish swimming towards the sun. Aequorea sp.
f029609: A small jellyfish with a simple bell underneath which hangs a translucid bag with the mouth parts. It has withdrawn its tentacles. (Aequoria victoria?)

Chrysaora reflections
f035436: the sea nettle (Chrysaora sp.? ) is one of the most beautiful of jellyfish as it has colour, long skirts and very long fishing lines. In this photo the clouds are visible, low in the blue sky, which created a pleasant effect.
f035433: sea nettle and its reflection in oily calm water. Somehow these animals can see, because this one was constantly attracted to the photographer. For an unruffled surface, one needs to hold one's breath for a long time.

f035419: a sea nettle swimming gracefully upward.
f035427: sea nettle and its surface reflection.

f029605: the mildly stinging plagusia jellyfish (Plagusia noctiluca) has a pink body and spots on its bell. Four graceful skirts contain its many feeding mouths. Long tentacles
f029503: a mine field of young plagusia jellyfish nearly always results in a few stings.
dead jellyfish
f029525: once jellyfish die, some float up towards the surface where they may be swept into a tranquil corner of the shore.
a raft of dying jellyfish
f045228: a thick raft of dying and dead jellyfish. It is surprising how fast such a mess disappears, either by the breaking force of waves or by decomposing bacteria.
f003724: the lion mane jelly (Cyanea lamarcki) can grow very large, larger than a car tyre. The dark patch underneath contain its millions of eggs, portend of a jellyfish plague.
jellyfish polyps on a bare rock
f033522: jellyfish reproduce through an intermediate polyp stage, seen here attached to the rock. A patch of only a few hands wide can give birth to tens of thousands of new jellyfish and a plague is born.
f047012: jellyfish need zooplankton, lots of it. So it was rather surprising to find this crested jelly (Cephea cephea) swimming in water of over 40m visibility near Niue. But these animals have plant cells on board, enabling them to live from sun light.
f047009: a crested jellyfish in a gin-clear sea around Niue Island. Unfortunately the day was heavily overcast.

Salps and comb jellies
f038705: this x-wing sea gooseberry is not like the others as it can unfold four delicate wings and two long whips with which it propels itself (Mnemiopsis sp.?)
f038635: delicate four-winged sea gooseberry.
f046117: surface reflection of a sea gooseberry. For a photo like this one needs a calm surface and a small strobe placed forward of the camera.

f046106: a large gooseberry like this 10cm zeppelin, propels itself with whipping hairs along its eight ribs, here seen as bright lines. These jellyfish are predators, hunting for surprisingly large prey. They are very agile.
f046112: reflection of a sea gooseberry at the moment it touched the surface.
f038701: a baby giant salp has an outlet opening on one side (on right) and many openings all over. Consisting of many filtering animals that pump water from the outside in, it propels itself like a rocket, but more slowly. These salps can grow to a length of 7m with a 60cm opening.
sea gooseberry by night
f048430: a sea gooseberry catching zooplankton at night. It can open a fairly large 'mouth' or catch bag to catch large zooplankton animals with.
f028007: some seasquirt families are not attached to a rock but rather to one another, forming rafts that are propelled by their exhaust water flow. In this variety, the fragile squirts are arranged in interconnecting rosettes, their orange gonads in the centres.



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