Jelly babies

Bristol Aquarium is awash with dozens of juvenile jellyfish.

The horde of moon jellyfish, known as a ‘smack’ were donated by another UK aquarium to form part of captive breeding programmes at the Harbourside wildlife attraction.

Moon jellyfish get their name from the four purplish ‘half moons’ on top of their transparent ‘bell’. This bell can reach up to 40cms across and has stinging tentacles and four frilly mouth tentacles hanging below.

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.

Bristol Aquarium’s Liv Orchart said: “We’ve now got more than 150 juvenile jellyfish on display and there are more developing behind the scenes.

“They’re truly fascinating creatures: extremely effective predators, despite the fact they have no brains, no bones and are made up of 95 per cent water!” she added.

Although potentially deadly to their prey, most jellyfish 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 of moon jellyfish, safe from predators.

Visitors can see the jellyfish in specially-constructed displays which mimic life in the open ocean and even have their own internal currents.

“The vast majority of jellyfish species aren’t harmful to humans and those that are don’t do it on purpose; they use their stinging tentacles to catch prey,” she added.

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.

Issued on behalf of Bristol Aquarium. For more information please contact Sarah Moore, Liv Orchart or David Waines on 0117 929 8929.