Without a doubt, jellies are one of Earth’s strangest animals. They have neither hearts nor brains but have managed to survive on our planet for over 500 million years! Often called jellyfish, they’re not actually fish – instead, they make up their own group of incredibly diverse animals. For example, the smallest jelly, the Irukanji, only grows to about the size of a thumbtack, while the Lion’s Mane Jelly can reach lengths of over 100 feet! Some jellies use stinging for defense and hunting, others can clone themselves, and others still can glow in the dark.
So, what do these diverse animals actually have in common? A jelly’s body consists of a bell (the round top of the jelly), a nerve net (instead of a brain), and a mouth organ.
At the Greensboro Science Center, we house three distinct species of jellies:
Moon Jellies – typically found in Japan, they’re an aquarium favorite, primarily due to their hardiness and robust lifespan of approximately 12 months. Moon Jellies sting using the small, tentacle-like structures surrounding their bell. However, the Moon Jelly’s sting is so mild that most humans wouldn’t even realize it if they’d been stung. The long, thin structures that extend from the bell of the jelly, called oral arms, move foods such as brine shrimp and small planktons to the Moon Jelly’s central mouth.
Blubber Jellies – native to the Indo-Pacific regions and coastal Australia, these jellies have a unique way of acquiring their food. They ram their bodies into the sand to stir up tiny crustaceans and plankton to catch in their oral arms, which contain stinging cells and also act as a mouth. Tiny spaces along the arms process the food (rather than moving it to a central mouth, like the oral arms of Moon Jellies do). Blubbers come in three different color varieties – white, blue and maroon – and have a lifespan of around 10 months.
Upside Down Jellies – found in the Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean Sea, these jellies are one of the world’s most unique jellies. They lay on their bells with oral arms pointing upwards towards the sunlight. Bacteria on the oral arms allow these animals to gain energy through photosynthesis… just like plants do! Upsides Down Jellies also eat plankton and small fish, which is warm, sunny waters make for a perfect environment for them to thrive.
At first glance, jellies may not seem to be up to much, but they’re actually doing a lot of good for our oceans! Not only do they provide a food source for many of our favorite animals, but they also help to stir the ocean, keeping it healthy. Unfortunately, climate change and plastic pollution are working against these amazing animals. If you’d like to help jellies and the animals that rely upon them, reduce your plastic usage and your carbon footprint. A couple of easy ways to do this? Switch from single-use plastic straws and bags to reusable options, and buy more local produce and products when available.
And now, it’s DIY time! Here’s how to make your own jelly slime:
For this activity, you’ll need:
– 1 bottle (4 oz) of Elmer’s school glue
– ½ teaspoon Borax (found in the laundry detergent aisle)
– Food coloring
– Plastic wrap
-2 bowls and 2 spoons
-1 cup of warm water
Step 1: Pour all of the glue into a bowl.
Step 2: Fill the empty glue bottle with warm water, then add it to the glue in the bowl and stir.
Step 3: Add the food coloring and mix well.
Step 4: In a separate bowl, mix the Borax with ½ cup of warm water until the Borax is dissolved.
Step 5: Slowly add the Borax solution to your glue mixture.
Step 6: Stir and knead the mixture until you have a bowl of slime!
To store, place your slime in the middle of a square of plastic wrap. Twist the wrap around the slime, then add a small rubber band or paper clip to keep this in place. Your slime will last about two weeks.
FUN FACT: After your slime is wrapped up, gently touch the top; it’ll feel very similar to a real jelly!
During the month of November, join us on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 and 2:30 in SciPlay Bay for a Jelly Jamboree!