Jellyfish are not an uncommon sight along Nova Scotia’s seashores in July. Yet, their translucent colors tend to blend in well with the reddish brown seaweed on the beach and are easy to miss if you’re not watching where you step.
By the time they’re washed ashore, jellyfish have lost most of their magnificent bodily form. My best guess for the one shone beached above is that it is a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata). In the drawing at left, I’ve attempted to show what it may have looked like while floating in the ocean.
Jellyfish are not fish at all, but rather marine animals without backbones that reveal a radial symmetry. They possess tentacles with stinging cells that allow them to capture their prey: zooplankton and small fish. Larger jellyfish will also eat smaller ones.
Leatherback sea turtles are attracted to our waters in search of jellyfish during the summer months. Seabirds and large fish also eat jellyfish.
Lion’s Mane jellyfish enjoy our cooler waters and tend to not venture into warmer Atlantic seas. They vary greatly in size. The largest ever, with a diameter of 7-1/2 feet, was washed ashore in Massachussetts towards the southern tip of its range.
Though its sting is not fatal, this type of jellyfish and others, if found ashore or swimming nearby, should not be touched. Their stings can still cause severe pain with reactions dependent on the size, age and health of the victim. Sea turtles and their other predators don’t seem to be affected by them.
Below, a seagull dines on crab near the spot where the jellyfish was sighted at Rainbow Haven Beach.