JELLY BABIES WITH A STING IN THE TAIL

Bristol Aquarium is awash with dozens of tiny new, stinging jelly babies.

The jelly babies in question are actually moon jellyfish, hunters that use their stinging tentacles to paralyse microscopic animals floating in the water.

Moon jellyfish get their name from the four purplish ‘half moons’ on top of their transparent ‘bell’. This bell can reach up to 30cms across and has stinging tentacles and four frilly mouth tentacles hanging below.

Bristol Aquarium’s Mike Coe, said: “Successfully re-creating the entire life-cycle of the jellyfish in captivity is extremely challenging. Each stage in their development is completely different and, with such fragile creatures, it is a very delicate procedure.

“These jellyfish were born at another aquarium but we’re hopeful that we’ll soon be able to start rearing them on site and producing our own young,” he added.

The babies are the final step in the complex life-cycle of the jellyfish which begins with tiny anemone-like animals attached to rocks known as ‘polyps‘.

These polyps release thousands of mini-jellyfish, called ephyra which drift with the currents and, if there is sufficient food available, grow into adult jellyfish.

Although deadly to their prey, the moon jellies’ tentacles are only slightly venomous to humans, usually causing mild pain and a burning sensation.

Some fish fry, including haddock and horse mackerel, have developed immunity to the stinging cells and shelter among the tentacles, safe from predators.

Visitors can see the new jellyfish inside a specially-constructed display which mimics life in the open ocean and even has its own internal currents.

There are over 200 known species of jellyfish. They come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. The largest is called the lions mane which has tentacles that grow over 100 feet.