Jellyfish Capsule Hotel

posted by Sophia Tintori / on September 11th, 2010 / in Arthropods, Jellies, Parasites, Siphonophores

These little pinkish crustaceans have set up house inside the muscular pulsating swimming parts of the colonial jellyfish, Nanomia. Out in the deep sea, there are few solid structures to call home, so living things will often take shelter in or on other animals.

Fish or bugs often hang around the tentacles of jellyfish because the jellies catch food there and are likely to drop pieces that can be salvaged. But these crustaceans are taking a different approach. They are living inside of swimming bells that are nowhere near where food is caught and eaten. These powerful little pods contract to push the colony through the water. The amphipods are likely to be taking refuge in the sturdy tissue, and feeding off the jellies flesh from the inside of the swimming bell.

Stefan Siebert, a post-doc in the Dunn lab, took this photograph of a Nanomia that he caught on a collecting trip in California. The gas-filled gland that keeps the colony afloat is hanging off the left side of the page. Three swimming bells for jet propulsion (with one amphipod crustacean in each) are seen in the middle. The part of the colony that feeds, reproduces, protects, and more, starts in the bottom right corner of the photograph. These amphipod crustaceans happen to be very similar to the ones we just made an animation about, that live on the fried egg jelly.

Here is a video from Casey Dunn of some other colonial jellyfish, to get a sense of how this close up photograph fits into the context of the whole colony, and to see how the swimming bells pulsate.

This photograph, by Stefan Siebert, is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license.