Relaxing in tropical waters, you feel something squishy, and watch a gelatinous shape float past. “There goes a jellyfish,” you think, and make your way to shore.
Beachgoers the world over know that stepping into the ocean means risking the burn of a jellyfish’s sting. But jellyfish, delicate and soft as they may be, thrive even in places you might not go swimming—including the Arctic.
Take the Chrysaora melanaster. In the sea between Alaska and Russia, it survives, even thrives. Once it was thought to live only several months, dying in winter. Yet mature adults of the species have been found long into the spring, suggesting that they’ve weathered the wintry temps. And this is no speck, with its bell—the round body shaped like a mushroom cap—two feet wide, and its many tentacles stretching almost ten feet.
Maybe, though, you’re the kind of diver who likes a polar bear plunge, jumping into frigid lakes for charity. Or you enjoy swimming in cold water for exercise. If so, perhaps C. melanaster doesn’t impress you.
Consider, instead, the Lion’s Mane jellyfish, one of the largest in the world. Its bell can stretch up to eight feet across, and its 1200 tentacles may reach more than a hundred feet. Like the king of the jungle, here’s one big animal you’ll want to avoid, as its beautiful red, orange, and yellow tentacles are coated in neurotoxins. This jelly giant happily drifts along in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic waters.
It seems that such a diaphanous creature couldn’t endure. Jellyfish, however, live in every ocean, in the shallows and the depths, serenely floating their way through life.